Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world. This is Steve Shallenberger, your host, and we have a very special guest with us today! She is the founder and managing partner of Working Simply – a productivity and training firm that served a fast-growing list of clients including Delta Airline, FedEx, Wells Fargo, Chick-fil-A, and a bunch more. Welcome, Carson Tate!
Carson Tate: Thank you, Steve. I’m so glad to be with you! Thanks for the opportunity!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, you bet! And we’ve had fun visiting already, and now I’m really looking forward to getting into this. I’d like to tell you just a little bit more about Carson before we get fully into the show. She’s known for igniting personal transformation through her simple, powerful, and actionable strategies and tools. She wants people to work smarter, not harder, and Carson is on a mission to debunk the time management myths that keep us trapped or overwhelmed, and to help us personalize our productivity, so we can work simply and live fully. Now, prior to starting Working Simply, she worked in human resources and sales functions with Fortune 200 firms. She holds a bachelor’s in psychology, a Master’s in organizational development, she has advanced coaching certificates – Carson is all over it. So, Carson, just to get us going, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you, and maybe that’s even led you to do what you’re doing today.
Carson Tate: Absolutely! You’ve got the professional bio, so I will tell you the personal story – kind of my why. So, it was December 26th, the day after Christmas, and we had a light bulb that had burned out on our Christmas tree and I had the dreaded task of having to figure out which bulb and replace it. So, I have my strand in the middle of the den floor laid out in front of me and I quickly realized, “Oh, I don’t have the replacement bulb.” So, I go to try to stand up and I can’t get off the floor. I’m completely exhausted – physically exhausted, mentally exhausted, emotionally exhausted; even my spirit was tired. Ten days before we had celebrated my daughter’s first birthday, and Steve, I had made this cake thing, it was like the size of a castle. That’s called Working-mom Guilt. I now know what that’s called. And I looked at myself, like, “How did I get here?”
Carson Tate: Well, six weeks after my daughter was born, I got on an airplane, I flew to Arizona and spent a week working with a financial services firm. The entire first year of her life I followed that pattern: on the road, driven by my ego, building the company, serving folks – and, by the way, I’m teaching and consulting on how to work simply, and my life is a mess. And so, on that day after Christmas, my world came crashing down. And, as I sat there on the floor, I realized two things: One, I didn’t have any significant memories of my daughter’s first year of life because of the choices that I made, and my ego; and two, the way I was working, was not working. I was going to have to make some hard choices and do some things differently, and that was the catalyst that really shifted my business and moved more into that purpose, and why our work matters. I want you to be productive, I want you to drive revenue, but I also want you to have a robust, vibrant life – so, it’s moving from success to significance.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, what a great story! Oh, my goodness! I’m sure we can all relate to that, so thank you for sharing that and what’s brought you to this point. Now, where were you raised? What’s your background?
Carson Tate: I was born and raised in South Carolina, I went to school in Virginia, and now, my family and I – there are two dogs, which Steve has already been introduced to, and my daughter – we live in North Carolina. We live in Charlotte, North Carolina now.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, great! Well, thanks for that background. We’re so excited to hear about Working Simply, about the book that you’ve written – tell us about your book.
Carson Tate: Yes. So, I had this a-ha moment working with clients, where the “standard” or “best practices” around productivity tools, this app, this methodology, didn’t work all the time. And so, I had clients that were feeling like failures, like they couldn’t get organized – well, that wasn’t the case. What I quickly realized – this is not rocket science – we don’t all think and process information the same way. So, in graduate school, I did research into cognitive thinking styles, which definitely informs how you set up and organize your workflow and developed an assessment. We call it “The Productivity Style Assessment.” And my first book, “Work Simply” is built off of that assessment. There’s no one size fits all, so you take the assessment, and then the assessment identifies one of four styles. Once you know your style, then let’s say you want to work on your email management, you’d flip to that chapter, give you some strategies based on how you think and how you work. So, you build this custom, personalized productivity toolkit.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that’s terrific! I’m excited to learn more about that. So, I know that you talk about four productivity styles in the book, right? Is that correct?
Carson Tate: Yes, that’s correct! Yes.
Steve Shallenberger: Do you mind talking about those a little bit? And then we can talk about applications in our lives today.
Carson Tate: Absolutely! So, there are four productivity styles and you have an assessment on our website – workingsimply.com – so you can take it and figure out your style, but I’m going to describe them, and I bet your listeners, Steve, can figure out which one they are. So, there are four styles: prioritizer, planner, arranger, and visualizer.
Carson Tate: So, prioritizers – they’re thinking analytical, linear, fact-based; they’ve never met a piece of data they didn’t like, they’re very goal-oriented, they’re very driven towards completing the goal. I always say that if you get on an elevator with a prioritizer, and they need to go somewhere, they’re going to close the door on you. It’s not personal, but they have a goal. And they’re going to drive towards that goal. They’re succinct, direct, really to the point. And if you want to annoy them, you tell them that we need to do this project because you feel that’s the right course of action. They’re not much of the feeling folks. So, that’s your prioritizer.
Carson Tate: Your planner is thinking organized, sequential, detailed – these are the natural project planners. These are your folks that love a list. They’ve never met a list they didn’t like and, in fact, they’ve been known to put something on their list that they’ve already done. Do you know why? Just so they can cross it off!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that feels so good!
Carson Tate: It does feel so good! And that’s it! For a planner, there’s nothing better than a sense of completion – strong action orientation, very detail-oriented, they’re the ones on our teams that we want to make sure they look at the documents before they go out to our customers because they will find the typos. They set the agenda, they’re very organized and on time.
Carson Tate: Our arrangers – the third style – these guys are more emotional, more relational, they’re more kinesthetic. They do their best work with and through people. I always say that they’re the ones that can walk into a room and they know what’s not being said. They have high emotional intelligence, they’re excellent communicators, excellent teachers. They’re also the ones on the team that have the nicest writing utensils, and they don’t want you to take their pens – don’t take their pens, don’t take their colored markers because they like color and they’re highly visual.
Carson Tate: And last, but not least, we’ve got our visualizers. They are our big-picture thinkers. They are the ones that can synthesize disparate ideas and data, they’re adrenaline junkies, they’re always pushing, “What’s next? Why not?” They’re the innovators. They see the future – out of side is out of mind. So, all of those file folders and organizational tools do not work for visualizers because they need to see it. They’re the ones in a meeting that go off on the tangent and they’re all off, talking about some idea that appears crazy but then they connect it back to the agenda item in a novel new way. They get a lot of work done quickly, and they get bored very quickly.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, thanks for that overview! I noticed the subtitle of your book is “Embracing the Power of Your Personal Productivity Style”. So, what does that mean?
Carson Tate: Steve, part of the myth around time management that I want to debunk is this one size fits all – that you have to do it this way, or you have to use this app in order to be productive – and that’s just not true. So, the visualizer, their productivity is whiteboards, markers, not a lot of structure – that really optimizes their performance. But if you gave whiteboards and magic markers to our planners, you would completely derail their productivity. They need a sequential project plan, they like checkmarks and list. So there’s no one size fits all. You’ve got to identify how you think and process and then use the strategies and tools that will work for you.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that is very interesting! So, any particular recommendations for our listeners on the best strategies?
Carson Tate: Yes! So, first, identify your styles. You’ve got those descriptions, you can always check out our Productivity Style Assessment on our website. And so, if we’re thinking about productivity strategies, I’ll give one for each one of the styles.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay.
Carson Tate: So, for our prioritizers, it’s a strategy that we call “Protect Your 90”. Now, remember that prioritizers are very goal-oriented and very data-oriented. And so, what this is, is 90 minutes a day focus on your high-value, strategic goals. Now, if you focus for 90 minutes a day – and it doesn’t have to be 90 contiguous minutes – over a five-day workweek, that’s seven and a half hours. That’s a significant amount of focused effort, and the prioritizers will get significant amounts of work done.
Carson Tate: My planners, I like to give them a list because remember, they are organized sequential list makers, so their productivity tool is something we call a “15-minute List”. And this is a list of tasks that can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Now, the magic in this list is they’re simple – it’s like, “Call the vet”, “Prep for a one-on-one”. But what this list allows my planners to do is capitalize on those micro-segments of their day. So, the 10 minutes you’re waiting for a conference call to start, or at some point, we will all be waiting in our dentist’s office again – when you’re waiting somewhere, you can pull out this list and actually get some work done. And a planner loves nothing more than getting work done.
Carson Tate: My arranger – for them, it’s around energy management. And so, it’s making sure that they’re leaning in if they’re a night owl or a morning person, but also making sure that they’re well hydrated and fueled throughout the day. And, since they’re so emotional and so intuitive, having emotional reset tools – movement, music, and humor are some of the best ones. So, after they have a challenging conversation, they’ve got a set of tools that allows them to reset and get going again.
Carson Tate: And then, for my visualizers – these are my adrenaline junkies. They get bored really fast, they’re always pushing the envelope. So, their productivity strategy is to oscillate between interesting or creative work and boring or uninspiring work. So, this is a little bit, Steve, like a carrot and a stick. So, the work you love to do, then you do a little something you don’t love to do; work what you love to do, then a little something you don’t love to do.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, I love it! That’s awesome! Carson, in other words, really learning what your strengths are and what your natural flows are, and kind of really organizing strategies to maximize your productivity around those. Is that what you’re saying?
Carson Tate: That’s exactly what I’m saying! And another thing – I know your listeners can do this – it’s the courage to really own them, even though maybe your office or your manager uses a different tool or strategy, but the confidence to say, “You know what? This is the way I work best. Let my results speak for themselves.”
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that’s very interesting! Well, that’s a whole other level in itself, isn’t it? It’s knowing what style your manager has or team members, right?
Carson Tate: Absolutely! So, like you – you talk about this: We believe that the highest performing teams are diverse in every sense of the definition of diversity. And so, we add in one more – we call it Work Style Diversity or Productivity Style Diversity. So, the highest performing teams have all four, and so, knowing what your manager’s style is, is important so you can see how this falls out in the composition of the team and you can know where there might be some predictable conflict between you and your manager.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, good stuff! Let’s shift gears a little bit. Let’s just think about, with all the changes that businesses and employees have had to face over the past few weeks or a couple of months, it can be overwhelming for many people to really pivot from going to a job outside of their home, perhaps every day, to now work in virtually. It’ll be interesting to see what the new norm looks like, but we’re having to learn new things. So how can we conquer that overwhelm of working and living in this ever-changing and complex Coronavirus world?
Carson Tate: It’s hard! So, the first place is just a little grace and the acknowledgment that this is a big change. And then, my team and I have always worked virtually, so I’ve always led a virtual team and the team that I’m leading right now, they’ve been working virtually for 10 years. So we definitely know the roadblocks, pitfalls, as well as the things that really optimize performance. And so to work simply and live fully in this Coronavirus world, there’s a four-part framework that we’ve used internally on our team and that we’ve taught to other virtual teams. It’s, go for an early win. So, when we don’t have the structure of the commute, and going to an office, we’ve got to have an early win in our day to kind of get that mojo, get that motivation going. And it can be, Steve, a personal or a professional win. So, if I’m coaching a prioritizer, I might tell them, “Your early win is to beat your time. Get dressed faster today or process 10 emails faster today than you did yesterday.” That taps into their goal orientation, and I want that win really, really early. So, get a win – quick, quick win.
Carson Tate: The second one is some kind of plan or schedule or structure to the day. Now, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach here. We might have multiple generations, you’ve got grandchildren, I’ve got a daughter, we’ve got dogs. So, first of all, we have grace around that we’re all dealing with different constraints and we also think differently. So, my prioritizers and planners, their plan is going to be more calendar, more linear time blocks. Well, if my arrangers and visualizers have too much structure, they’re going to chafe against it and it’s going to undermine their productivity. So, I coach them to plan or structure their day and their virtual world more thematically. So Monday, let’s say, might be admin and Thursday afternoon’s day might be reading and prep for a podcast. So, you’ve got to get an early win and have some kind of plan or structure to your day. Then you’ve got to execute.
Carson Tate: So, Steve, I was a college athlete, I ran cross country and track and I can tell you, when I was fat and lazy in the summer, it didn’t go well. I learned that lesson very quickly and I didn’t want to have that conversation with my coach when I showed back up in September. And so, it might be a cliche, but I really believe that what you do in the offseason, that’s where the champions are made – and so, what we’ve been telling folks is, this is a reset. So we can think about this as a little bit of an offseason, but the third piece around working virtually is that execution, that impact. You’re showing up, you’re leveraging your strengths, you’re getting the work done. And any of those strategies that I gave at the beginning, all of those work in a virtual world.
Carson Tate: And then, the fourth step is to celebrate, because if you’re used to being in the office where you can get an affirmation from your boss or just a smile or check-in from a colleague, you’re not getting that anymore. So, we’ve got to create systems that allow us to reflect and acknowledge the impact that we made, what we accomplished. It’s really important. So, it’s a four-part framework: early win – plan or structure for your day – execute, execute, execute, make an impact – and then don’t forget to celebrate and reflect.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, great advice! I love that! That’s excellent! Ten years of virtual working together. Wow, that’s a long time! So, what are some of the best tips that you have of working together virtually – things that really work, that are productive? This is a good four steps. I mean, I appreciate that. What are some things you found that works well, in addition to this?
Carson Tate: So, we’ve always been early adopters of technology, Steve, which is not new information for your listeners. However, we were playing with video technology a long time ago. So, I have a requirement with my team, and we train our clients as well, and I was so grateful that you jumped right in there on video too, that we employ video technology so we can see each other so that we can see those micro cues. The other thing that we do internally that works really well, is we start all of our team meetings with a professional win, a personal win, and one thing that we’re struggling with or one thing that is a challenge – and that can be either personal or professional – to continue to build that community and that psychological safety.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good thoughts! I love the idea of the use of videos, where you can see each other. It’s such a different dimension, isn’t it, than just the audio?
Carson Tate: It really is! And I can tell you, I’ve caught things that it might have taken me longer to catch, in terms of struggles with teams or clients, just because I can see them.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. That’s great! Working from home, really, could be a minefield of distractions. I mean, you have dogs, kids, spouses, partners, things that break.
Carson Tate: Yes! And don’t forget the fridge. Maybe that’s not your but that’s my problem.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, food! Yeah, it’s always there. It’s calling your name.
Carson Tate: It is! And the chocolate… Anyway, we digress. But, yes!
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. But there’s all kinds of stuff going on. And so, how can people navigate and manage these distractions and not feel that they’re wasting hours each day?
Carson Tate: You’ve heard this and it’s worth repeating. The first one is some kind of office space. For three reasons: one – I need a transition. So, I need a psychological and physical transition from maybe you’re being a mom, maybe you’re being a granddad, maybe you’re cooking, to “now it’s time to work”. So, even if this is the edge of a countertop, it’s that dedicated space that you transition into. And then, it’s also really important because this space can help provide a boundary. And we use a system we call “The Stoplight System” to help manage the distractions of everybody who’s in the house. And so, it’s a colored post-it or a piece of construction paper – red, yellow, green – and if it’s on red, don’t interrupt. So, this is a distraction mitigation. Don’t interrupt. Yellow – proceed with caution. And then green, it’s okay. So, that office space and managing with some colors and communication can help with all of the people that want to come and interrupt you. We also are big fans of headphones. We love them. We use them all the time. And we also use music.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, how do you use music?
Carson Tate: So, music is used either to energize, to kind of get that Mojo going. And we also use it when, if I’m dropping into a writing sprint, and I need to kind of turn down the noise in my head, if I have music in the background, it gives my brain a little something to think about while I drop into writing. So, when you want to self-interrupt, when you have thoughts swirling, music can kind of calm that down, so that you can focus. But one of the other issues in working from home – maybe you’ve experienced this – is that you get bored. You get uninspired, and so, you’ll self-interrupt. So, you’ve got to have tools both for those external interruptions and those internal interruptions.
Steve Shallenberger: I love your recommendations here, particularly of really being mindful of your workspace and things that are there, that help you be productive. So, I’m glad that you mentioned that. Just like anything else. I mean, if you’re working in your office, in a workspace with other people, you’re going to be thoughtful about that, to be productive. So, I’m glad that you mentioned this, Carson, of having a dedicated workplace and that you’re set up to succeed.
Carson Tate: So, Steve, how do you do it? I saw a glimpse of your office – how have you set up your office so that it supports your productivity?
Steve Shallenberger: I love the idea of the different styles of people, but I like to have a clean workspace, but it’s not always clean.
Carson Tate: Do you clean it off at the end of the day? I’m just curious. I’m trying to figure out your style.
Steve Shallenberger: I’m really working on that. So, I’m really working on going paperless, cleaning out everything I’ve had over the years, and anything that’s critical I’m scanning, putting in my electronic files – and I’ve been working on it now for about a year and a half – and then everything becomes electronic. So, there’s no paper.
Carson Tate: Yeah!
Steve Shallenberger: And I easily can get to anything that’s important. That’s one of the blessings, I think, of the technology we have today. And then, doing some of the things you’ve talked about – thinking about what matters most, my various roles in life, and then setting goals for the week for each of those roles – so, being thoughtful – and then executing each day. So, just like you said, at the beginning of the day, taking time to focus on the bigger picture, but then narrow that down to the things that matter most and have a clear picture to get after them. And then, you just go to work. But I like your idea of the music and good thoughts on that! Okay, well, let’s just sit back and think – I’m always amazed at how fast time goes in these interviews, and we’re at the end of our interview. Any other final tips that you would like to give our listeners today that you think would help them in personal or professional productivity?
Carson Tate: I’ll give two more. One, I’ll just restate – I’ve said that a couple of times – there is no one size fits all. You have to personalize your productivity based on how you think and process information, and then use tools that will support you.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay.
Carson Tate: And then, the second one – and I’m hearing more and more from our clients, so I want to really bring this one up – is to make sure that when you work virtually you take breaks. Planners – you schedule them in; prioritizers – schedule them in; arrangers – they’re with people; visualizers -they’re with ideas. But breaks throughout the day are really important because we’re human beings. We’re not human doings. You can’t just sit and grind it out. So, make sure you’re taking some breaks.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good stuff! And then, not only that. Today, we have watches or rings or other things that keep you honest whether you’re taking your breaks or not.
Carson Tate: Exactly! So, let the technology work for you there – tell you to get up and move.
Steve Shallenberger: So fun to have Carson Tate with us today. Carson, how can people find out about what you’re doing, about your resources? You’ve mentioned some of them during our show today, but let’s just be sure we’ve got clear what’s available to people.
Carson Tate: Sure! So, on our website – workingsimply.com – you can take the Productivity Style Assessment, we have a resource center that’s got videos and articles that you can download. And then, also follow me on LinkedIn. So, Carson Tate on LinkedIn – fresh content, fresh videos every week on productivity, and staying engaged and motivated at work.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, I can tell you are such a delightful person! We wish you and your family – and dogs – all the best!
Carson Tate: Thank you, Steve! I appreciate it. Thank you so much!
Steve Shallenberger: It’s been a fun interview, and thanks for the tips and ideas and inspiration on productivity, and ways to approach it and how to move the bar up. Great job!
Carson Tate: Thank you so much!
Steve Shallenberger: We wish you the best, as you continue to make a difference in the world for good, and blessing other lives. And to our listeners, we wish each one of you the very best, as you’re working on these principles. You are touching people every single day, you’re making a difference for good in the world. This is Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!
Rob Shallenberger: Welcome back to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners around the world! This is your host, Rob Shallenberger. We have a great guest with us today! I’ll introduce her in just a couple of minutes. I just want to get through one admin item briefly.
Rob Shallenberger: For those who may or may not have taken this, we just want to make you aware that we have updated the personal productivity assessment on our website, www.becomingyourbest.com, and it’s a pretty cool upgrade to the assessment – it puts out a graph there, it only takes about five to six minutes to take and it can really give you a good snapshot of where you’re at with vision, character, productivity, performance, your own satisfaction with life. So, this is a great assessment for you to take and to share it with your coworkers or other family members – have them take it! And it puts out a graph and evaluates basically where you’re at in your life right now and gives you an objective score. So, that’s the updated personal productivity assessment – I just wanted to make everyone aware of that. That’s on www.becomingyourbest.com, and anybody can take that. It’s free and it’s a great tool to get a snapshot of where you are today and specific things that you can do to really see some of those benefits of better health, better relationships, connecting with your true authentic self, and those types of things. So, with that being said, let’s jump into this!
Rob Shallenberger: So, we have with us today, Erin Galyean who has been a friend of ours now for a couple of years. She’s an amazing lady! She just released a new book, which we’ll talk about. There’s always a person or a couple of people every time you go to a conference, a keynote, or a workshop, who just stand out, and the first time I met Erin, this is who she was. She’s one of those standout people. She had great energy, a great smile, and she just stood out amongst the group. And so, we’re excited to have her here today. She’s a certified Becoming Your Best Trainer within her organization. She just wrote a book, she has a son, and I’m not going to give her whole background, but rather, I’m going to let her tell you a little bit about who she is, where she’s come from, and give you a chance to get to know her on a more personal level. So Erin, first of all, welcome! And tell everyone a little bit about who you are, if you don’t mind.
Erin Galyean: Hi, Rob. Thank you for having me! So yes, absolutely! I grew up in Philadelphia – in the suburbs of Philadelphia, in a little town called Newtown Square, which is kind of near Villanova for any of those basketball fans out there; they’ll probably be familiar with that school – and I was the youngest of three children. I come from a big Irish family with many cousins and aunts and uncles, but my little family unit was small and I was really blessed. I came from a very loving family. We just had lots of fun and we loved to travel and vacation as a family. So, I was really lucky as a child – a very magical childhood. And from there, I went to college to the University of North Carolina. I graduated in 1998. And then, after college, I moved back to Philadelphia and I became a pharmaceutical sales rep. So, I sold over-the-counter cough cold medications in Philadelphia and in New Jersey, and that’s really where my career began. I moved around the country with the same company. I’ve actually been there for 20 years. I know that’s kind of rare to hear about, these days, but when you work for a company that you love and the people that you love, it’s kind of hard to leave.
Erin Galyean: So, in 2013, I got married and I have a sweet stepdaughter – her name is Mallory – and then, in 2016 I had a son, and his name is Graham and he’s four. So, we are dealing with all the quarantining and isolation and making the best of it. From a pharmaceutical sales rep, I turned into a corporate trainer – and that’s where my passion lies. So, I really love what I do for a living, so I’m lucky in that way, as well, and I was lucky enough to meet all of you at the training conference and become a certified trainer at Becoming Your Best which I train my sales team on. Yeah, I get to do what I love every day, so that’s kind of fun.
Rob Shallenberger: Well, thanks, Erin! And I want to get into this book a little bit, because, at some point, I believe it’s going to apply to everyone who’s listening to this, in one way or the other. So, she wrote a book called “Badass Advocate: Becoming The Champion Your Seriously Ill Loved One Deserves”. So, talk a little bit about why you decided to write this, Erin. I mean, what was your vision in writing this? Why did you write it? Who’s it for? Just tell us a little bit about the book.
Erin Galyean: Like I said, I grew up in a very loving family. We had a few tragic events: my father passed away in 1997 from Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – so that was a rough time for my family; he brought so much joy and love to our family, just really a fun father; just really loving and a lot of fun. So, of course, that was a hard transition for my family and we survived it and we managed to get through that time. And then, unfortunately, in 2017, my sister Megan was also diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma – purely coincidental that they had the same cancer, but the cancer that she had was actually the good news because it was really curable. But the cancer caused autoimmune disease, and the autoimmune disease caused lung disease. So, my sister was a very healthy 47-year-old, she was a former college athlete, mom of two beautiful girls and unfortunately, the lung disease just really was aggressive and rare – which, the one time in life you don’t want to be rare, is when you have a disease. So, this incident, basically really hit my family hard, and of course, her little family unit. So, over that time, my sister was in and out of the hospital and she deteriorated very quickly because the lung disease was so aggressive.
Erin Galyean: So, during that time, I realized that when I was advocating for her, as well as my family, the background that I have, as a pharmaceutical sales rep and a pharmaceutical trainer was really advantageous. I realized some things that I teach reps on how to speak to doctors, how to ask questions, they came into use – which of course, that was never my plan in life, but it did help me to better advocate for my sister. So, it wasn’t going to cure her. I wasn’t going to cure her, but at least I could get her the best care possible – and that’s any caregiver’s goal. Of course, we hope that our loved one survives and gets better, but that’s kind of out of our control. So, the one thing that you can do when you feel out of control and powerless is to advocate for them. And you can ask any doctor or nurse – especially those that work in hospitals – being a patient advocate is so important, and every patient needs someone to advocate for them when they’re sick because they can’t do it themselves, especially when they’re seriously ill. I’m not talking about having a cold; I’m talking about someone who has a serious illness. And so, that is really what inspired the book.
Rob Shallenberger: There’s people listening to this all over the world, and there will be a lot of people who are able to relate and connect to this. And there will also be some who say, “You know, this doesn’t really apply to me.” Well, the truth is, I’m pretty confident that this will touch just about everyone at some point in their lives. I mean, my mom is 65 years old and was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s 10 years ago, and she was just moved to a care facility probably about three and a half months or so ago. And we don’t know, it may be weeks, months left, but not much longer. She’s at the very end of this pretty vicious disease. One of our coaching clients – I won’t say his name, but just an incredible friend, a great leader of a large organization – he was driving with his wife on the freeway down to their cabin in southern Utah and one of the tires blew and the SUV rolled and his wife was in a coma for almost two years, if I remember the exact time right – they just took her off her life support, and she passed away a couple of months ago. But the bottom line is, I mean, these things, whether it’s a slow, gradual progression of early-onset, or whether it’s the tire that blows up, at some point, most of us are going to have a family member that’s in a situation where we’re going to be required to help them. This is something that I do believe is going to touch most people at some point in their life. It’s just a matter of when.
Erin Galyean: 100%. In fact, Rob, there’s a quote that I have in the book that’s from Rosalyn Carter, and it says “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need a caregiver.” So, at some point, it will touch all of us. And so, I’ve had people that have read the book that have said, “You know, I haven’t been in this situation yet, but now, I at least feel prepared for when that day comes.”
Rob Shallenberger: Is there a way to bypass all four of those?
Erin Galyean: You know what? I wish! Because that’s happened several times in my family, and I wish that we weren’t in that category. I know, none of us want to be in this situation and I know that you talk about pre-week planning, and it’s almost like a version of that – at a different level and a different scenario, but it’s planning for something hopefully you won’t have to deal with but most likely, we all will.
Rob Shallenberger: Well, it’s better to overprepare and not have to deal with it, than under prepare and wishing you would have prepared more, right?
Erin Galyean: 100%.
Rob Shallenberger: So, you have eight strategies in this book. I’d love to hear just a couple of those. Obviously, one thing that’s interesting about when you write a book – and I know that you just released this recently and if anyone is in this situation right now or going through it, I highly encourage people to get this and read it, and look at some of these strategies. Because I’ll just tell you, my dad has been a saint, walking through this with my mom, but it’s navigating through uncharted waters, if you will. And so, any strategies that you can get to help you stay ahead of the curve are helpful in this process. So, if you don’t mind, Erin, I mean, you’re going to start hearing stories from more and more people who’ve gone through these things as they apply these strategies, and you’ll get more and more feedback. But even already, I know that you have a lot of experience in this. So, what are a couple of the strategies that you’ve outlined in your book that people could learn from you?
Erin Galyean: So, I think the number one thing that’s most important for people and the number one complaint that I hear is that caregiving usually falls on one person’s shoulders. It just naturally happens. It’s usually a spouse or a parent, or it could be an adult child that maybe is the one whose personality is to step up to the plate or be the caregiver – maybe they’re more nurturing or maybe they’re the one that lives close by mom and dad. For you, it’s your father who’s taking care of your mother, right? So it naturally fell on his shoulders because he’s the spouse. So, what happens is, that person many times feels like they have to do everything. Of course, there is a lot that’s naturally going to fall on their shoulders that not a lot of other people can handle, especially if you think of the finance part of it. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t create a support team – and my first badass strategy in the book is to create a support team. And that can look different for every family. You come from a big family, so maybe that’s a little bit easier than someone who’s an only child, but you can pull people in and give them responsibilities that are even minor that would alleviate some stress from that main caregiver. That will make a huge difference!
Erin Galyean: So, when my sister was sick – I live in Dallas, Texas; my family lives in Charleston, South Carolina – I had a two-year-old at the time, so for anyone who has young children, you know how hard it is to leave them on a constant basis. My sister was my best friend so I wanted to be there for her as much as possible. So, I wasn’t always there, physically, but I was always there emotionally and doing things for her, advocating for her from far away. So, just to back up, my mother was the main caregiver, and of course, her husband who worked full time he would caregive for my sister as well. But my mom, because she’s retired, was that main person and her main advocate. However, I could step in from far away by doing things like, I call it in the book “VP of communications”, which is a title I made up just to make my sister laugh because you have to have laughter during a very difficult time. So, my job was to actually relieve some stress from my family who lived locally. They were getting a lot of texts, emails, phone calls from family and friends, which is wonderful, but when you’ve got a lot of other things on the plate, you don’t want to have to return all these messages.
Erin Galyean: So, what I did is I reached out to all of my sister’s family members and friends and said, “I will be the contact person. Now, it doesn’t mean you can’t send loving messages to my sister. In fact, I encourage you to keep doing so, but if you want an update on her health, please come to me” because I wasn’t there for the day in and day out, taking her to the doctors, taking her to the hospital, getting her out of the hospital. So, I was able to relieve a lot of stress with just that minor of a thing. There’s other things that we did, but that was one way that we could take that stress off my family. And my sister still got the love from everyone and I informed my family what I’d be doing, we all agreed this was a good plan, and I kept all of my sister’s good friends and our huge extended family informed. And, in fact, it was even mentioned at my sister’s funeral how much they appreciated being kept in the loop because they were all concerned about my sister and they all loved her. She was beloved by many.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s great! I see the value of this because we’ve been through this for the last 10 years, and so, everything you’re saying, I can relate to. People in business have support groups. There’s a group called YPO. They have forums – it’s typically seven to 10 people in that range. One of the things that we see over and over in people who end up being highly successful through life – success being defined as they have a balance of success stories across every area of their life – almost always have a support group on the business side, in their personal lives, and especially going through a time like this. I mean, this is, again, uncharted waters for the people who are going through it, in most cases. I can just tell you from personal experience, having that support group is huge, even if it’s just a small interaction, or someone else that can jump in and take the person somewhere, or whatever it is. That’s a huge deal!
Erin Galyean: It’s a lot more important than maybe what you think you know, just hearing about it, but I’ll tell you, in the book, I give a list of different ways that people can help. Many times people do want to help. They just don’t know what to do, and they also don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. I have joined some caregiver groups on Facebook, on social media groups, and that is just the number one complaint I hear is, “I’m taking all of the burden” – especially when it comes to adult children who have multiple siblings. That seems to be kind of consistent. And it maybe isn’t that your siblings don’t want to help, but they don’t know what to do or maybe they’re not local, but there are ways people can contribute and it can be very effective and relieves responsibilities from the main caregiver.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s a great point! How about one more strategy? What’s one more thing that would be important for someone preparing for or in this situation?
Erin Galyean: So, I think this is the best thing that my family did: we recorded conversations with physicians. So, I’ve been a patient myself, not with anything extreme, but just trying to get pregnant with my son, I went through a fertility treatment. So, even something like that was stressful, and I will tell you, when I was at the physician’s office, he would tell me things, and if my husband couldn’t make that appointment, I would come home and my husband would ask me questions, and I would look at him with a blank stare and say, “I don’t know!” So, I think what happens, from my experience at least, and just seeing my two family members go through this, a lot of times when you’re the patient, you get inside your head, and you don’t hear what the physician is saying – it could be shock, disbelief, stress; who knows what happens? So, recording the conversations with a physician was extremely valuable to my family.
Erin Galyean: So, what we did was very simple: we took the iPhone – we each have a phone – and whoever the advocate was for that day that was with my sister, we made sure to record the conversation. But the number one thing I would tell you is, if you’re going to do this, you need to ask permission of that physician. The goal is not to trap them or sue them or get them into trouble. The goal of recording the conversation is so that you can listen back to it later and make sure that what you heard is what the physician said. So, if they’re giving you instructions on how to take a medication, what the diet should be, anything that you discuss – maybe what the name of the disease is or the medication and how it’s dosed – that will be all recorded, and you can go back and listen to it when maybe you have time to take notes, and absorb the information and maybe when your nerves are calmed down. And that was huge! And I’ll tell you, it was also important because as a family, we communicated a lot – now, I have a tight family, so I know this won’t be for everyone out there – and we were able to work together and share that message with my sister’s permission. Clearly, there’s some legal things there, so you want to make sure the patient is in on everything that you do because they are the patient – and I talk about that in the book. And my sister was on board with sharing with my immediate family, and her husband, of course, and all the adults, and we were able to help each other and identify things and some people would pick out certain things than others, and it really made us a really strong badass team.
Rob Shallenberger: Yeah, that’s awesome! That’s a great idea and it’s funny that I’ve never heard that one before. But how many times have we all left the doctor saying, “Now, what did he say, exactly, again? What was that?” So, I mean, even if we’re not caring for someone – and like you said, with the certain stipulations of asking permission and things like that – what a great idea to record that conversation! I mean, with just my wife, I took her in to the doctor’s the other day, because she had a little eye issue that she was dealing with and afterward, her mom called, and her dad, and then her brother, and how nice would that have been just to have recorded. That was for something simple. Obviously, there’s going to be a lot more people who are concerned and want updates when it’s something more serious where everyone’s really vested in it. So, that’s great!
Erin Galyean: And you can go back and listen to it. If later down the line you need to go back and say, “I spoke to Dr. Smith three months ago, and he said something about this, and I can’t remember”, you have that recording saved. So, I talk about that in the book and some best practices for recordings and how to have that conversation with the doctor. And so, it’s all in there, and I really lead you through everything we did and I am confident that these strategies will really help you to get the best care for your loved one. It’s just a matter of doing it and figuring out how you can do it.
Rob Shallenberger: And here’s one more – this is just from our experience. Every situation, I realize, is different. Obviously, our friend, the coaching client who had the accident in the SUV and his wife was immediately in a coma, she couldn’t talk, so not an option. But here’s one more thing, and that is, if someone has something terminal or something very serious that may end up taking their life after a few weeks, months, or even years, one thing that we did with my mom eight, nine years ago – and we’re so glad we did – is we sat down, and we just had a recording device tucked away there, so she couldn’t really see it and wasn’t distracted by it, but we started just talking about her stories growing up. She had some horses – Zenyatta was her horse’s name and, “Tell us about Zenyatta. Tell us about the farm. Tell us about high school.” And she shared so many experiences and stories and we have those all now recorded that we can pass on to her grandchildren, great-grandchildren. And, at this point, she can’t even have a conversation. So, that just sparked that idea of recording. Recording stories can be so valuable when someone has something that may be terminal or could really degrade their memory or things like that down the road. So, just one more thought. So, here we go. A couple of last questions – I can’t believe we’ve been talking for 20 minutes already, Erin.
Erin Galyean: Are you sure? Because I can talk all day. It’s really fine!
Rob Shallenberger: So this was your vision, to get this? I mean, first of all, it sounds like your vision is starting to blossom into reality, getting this book out there and helping other people. Talk about what it’s been like for you, now that you’ve written the book, you published it, you had this vision to do that. How do you think this will help caregivers going forward? I mean, just talk a little bit about what’s next?
Erin Galyean: Yeah. So, what’s next? Well, first of all, getting the feedback that I’ve gotten – obviously, the book has only been out for two weeks – it’s been incredible. And my vision, you asked that earlier, and I don’t think I really answered it – but my vision is to honor my sister – she was a very giving person – and just to honor her by helping others who are experiencing some things similar that our family went through. So, I want to continue to do that in different ways. Obviously, the book is the start and I feel like I really can give good advice there from my experiences and my knowledge as a pharmaceutical trainer. But, on top of that, I’ve created a website, and I’m going to continue to develop that website where people can go and find resources and links. There’s already a bunch of valuable information on there, and I want it to continue to grow.
Erin Galyean: For example, you just shared a great tip about how you recorded your mom, and I didn’t think of that. I have other ideas, but that one’s great! So, I would love to keep sharing and I know the more this book grows and speaking to more and more caregivers, more ideas will come out and let’s just share them and help each other because watching your loved one – hopefully, they’re not going to pass away; hopefully, they’ll get out of it and recover. That’s the goal for everyone. For some of us, that won’t be a reality, but how can we make that experience for them the best experience so they get the best care possible? Because that’s all we really want. And I know this is really relevant during this time with COVID-19. It’s very difficult to hear these stories of people passing away alone and I feel for all these families. It breaks my heart to hear it. So the goal is to really help these caregivers and advocates and family members who are helping their sick loved ones through my website, through the book, and then, also, I have some social media accounts. So, I’m hoping through there, people can share their story, and again, we can just connect to people because that’s also how sometimes you find a doctor, maybe, who you don’t know or who knows what you can find through other people, just networking. And that’s my goal, just to help one another.
Rob Shallenberger: And I love that you articulated the vision because anybody who’s going through this right now, this is real to you, isn’t that a good summation of the vision – to give the person who we’re caring for the best experience possible? Some will live, some won’t live, but regardless of what the outcome is, not being outcome-focused but rather making their experience the best experience possible, and how do we do that, as the medium, and creating that support group and having other people to help and assist, because if it’s left to one person, it’s very easy to burn out, right? I mean, I talked to so many people who’ve gone through what my mom is going through, and they were the only caregiver there and they just literally burned out. Sometimes it was like caring for a two-year-old.
Erin Galyean: It’s called caregiver’s fatigue. I speak about that in the book, too. It’s really a defined medical term – caregiver’s fatigue – it’s a real thing and that’s hopefully what we can help people to avoid because you’re right, it’s exhausting.
Rob Shallenberger: It is! I mean, this stuff is real. For those who are going through it, it’s one of the main focuses of your life. So I love that vision of coming back to saying, how do you make this the best experience you can for the person who is being cared for? And, of course, that’s going to vary by person, but you’ve got eight strategies in the book, very specific things that people can do. And you mentioned that you had a website. Do you mind sharing that with everyone? I know that people who are actually in this right now, going through it, would love to go to your website and see what other ideas you have. So, do you mind sharing that, Erin, and anything else you think would be valuable for them, social media wise?
Erin Galyean: Absolutely! So, the website is easy, because it’s the name of the book. It’s www.badassadvocate.com. And, like I said, there’s resources on there, and links. Eventually, I’m going to have a shop. So, the website is new and the goal there is to provide ideas for people who want to either give the patient a gift, or maybe the family member. So, because my sister and I were so close, and I was the VP of communications – very elite title – people would reach out to me to ask me, “What can I get your sister? What does she need? What can I send your mom?” And sometimes I’d have a great idea, and sometimes I didn’t. And I wished, at that time, I had a website that I could go to and say, “Oh, here’s an idea!” So, that’s coming, hopefully by the end of this year, so if anyone checks out the website – come back. That’s something I’m going to start working on soon. But, in the meantime, there’s plenty of links. The other advantage I had as a pharmaceutical rep, that’s on the website is, I know where some of my medical directors go for valuable or reliable information – medical information. So, I put those sites on there; links to real websites, they’re legit. And sometimes we go on websites and we get misinformation, and I hate for that to happen to anyone. So, I give you legitimate websites you can go to, to find actual medical information. So I think that’s pretty valuable, too.
Rob Shallenberger: That’s awesome! Well, for our listeners, for anyone that might be in this situation or potentially could be or would like to at least be more prepared for it, there’s the website, I highly encourage you to go get her book. If you’re not in it right now, skimming the book would at least be helpful. Start thinking about those things because, man, I’ll tell you, all the people that we’ve had the chance to associate with who are going through this, wish they would have learned a little bit more about it before they were in the actual situation. So, at a minimum, skimming the book. If you’re in this situation, read it carefully, look through these strategies and I’m positive that a lot of these will be beneficial, just knowing this and having been through something similar in our experience with my mother. So, anyway, Erin, it’s been great having you here! Any final thoughts that you want to share with our listeners?
Erin Galyean: I just wanted to also thank you, which I didn’t get to mention, that the reason why this book came to fruition is because of Becoming Your Best. So, I had this idea after my sister passed away – to help others – and my idea really started small, was just to have a class maybe at a local hospital here in Dallas, where I could help caregivers that were upstairs and they could come down for an hour and I could give them my tips. And then, I went to Becoming Your Best and you talked about Bella writing her book, and I thought, “Well, if a nine-year-old can do it, I think I can write a book!” And I was an English major, so it was always something I wanted to do, but never had done and wished I had, and I did it! And it was all because you planted the seed and I created that vision and then I created goals and I really believe in this program – Rob is not paying me to say this, I promise you – but this is why I’m a trainer for Becoming Your Best, because I believe in it, and I live it. And I set goals, and I can’t believe that I wrote a book. I’m just a regular girl from Philly. So, hopefully it’ll help people, and that’s all I want to do, is just help people that are going through a really tough time. So, you can go to Amazon to find the book. I have it on Kindle and also on paperback. And it’s easy to find because it’s the only book called “Badass advocates”.
Rob Shallenberger: Thank you, Erin! You’re right! The principles are powerful. It’s amazing how simple those are, and now you’ve done something that before may have seemed impossible, and yet now you’ve done it.
Erin Galyean: 100%, yeah!
Rob Shallenberger: And not only that, but I mentioned this just briefly in our podcasts – this is just the beginning! You’re going to start to get stories, people are going to start sharing experiences with you, and this is going to blossom into something that’s going to help a lot of people. So, it’s amazing what happens when we identify our vision, when we start setting clear, specific goals, and getting that focus on what really matters most – we start to do what, up to that point, may have even felt impossible or difficult. And you’ve done it! So, awesome job, Erin! When I started the podcast, the thing I said is there’s always a few people who stand out as being amazing. They have a great energy about them, and you’re that type of person. So, thank you for sharing some of these insights. For all of our listeners, we invite you to go get her book, look through it, read it, learn some of those lessons, so that you can apply those when that time comes in your life – and you’ll be that much more prepared. So, thanks, Erin! Thanks to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners. We appreciate everything you do! And remember, one person can make a difference! So, thank you for being here and we hope you have a great week.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and I am so excited for the guest that we have today. She is the sixth president of the University of West Florida, and in her 30 plus years in higher education, she has served in academic and leadership roles at universities in Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, and Mississippi. So, welcome Dr. Martha Saunders!
Martha Saunders: Thank you!
Steve Shallenberger: I’ve been looking forward to this visit! I wish that our listeners today could just join us in a room because Dr. Saunders has this great smile and light – and you would fill it instantly! We had the chance to just visit on a video visit beforehand and I can tell it’d be fun to work together with you, Dr. Saunders.
Martha Saunders: Thank you!
Steve Shallenberger: Alright, well, let’s just jump right into this today. Martha led the University of West Florida to its status as a top-performing public university, with the third-highest score in the Florida Board of Governors Performance Metrics.
Martha Saunders: That’s second-highest!
Steve Shallenberger: Yay! Man, let’s get this baby right, here. That’s moving up! We’re looking up to even better things in the future, right?
Martha Saunders: Right!
Steve Shallenberger: Her vision for the University of West Florida is for it to grow beyond its beginnings as a regional comprehensive university, and be seen as a leader in innovation and cutting-edge academic programs. Now, a couple of other things I think that this group would find interesting about you, Martha, is your training and experience in the field of communication led to numerous publications on crisis management and public relations. She has had two Silver Anvil Awards, the Public Relations Society of America’s highest national honor, she is the 2011 National Winner of the Stevie Award for Women in Business. Congratulations! I love the sound of that!
Martha Saunders: Thank You!
Steve Shallenberger: Alrighty, well, let’s get right into this. Tell us about yourself, Martha. Tell us about your background and some of the experiences that you’ve had and what are the things that have led you to where you’re at today?
Martha Saunders: When I think back on my background, my professional background, and changes that I have seen, they all center around being what I call, a woman of my generation. From time to time, students will ask me if I thought about being a university president when I was in college, and my answer is always “No” because they didn’t make women presidents of anything when I was in college. And so, I had these wonderful opportunities from the time I finished school, to today – things have changed a great deal and I think they’ve changed very much for the better. My first job at higher ed – I came to higher ed from the industry. I worked in communication field for some years, but I was an affirmative action hire. The department at the University was looking to get its professional accreditation and they had brought in some consultants and the consultants said, “You’d better get some women on your faculty because you’re probably not likely to get this accreditation if you don’t.” And so, I was rather inauspiciously hired over probably a lot of other people with more experience. But that was right here at the university and it made a huge difference. I think I paid them back for the opportunity but that was my first experience in higher ed. And then, our university has a wonderful culture of professional development. I was encouraged along the way, then moved on to have two other presidencies before coming back. I thought I had retired, but apparently not, and now, I’m in my third presidency. And all of those things happened, I think, just because someone recognized something in me worth cultivating and encouraged me along the way.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that’s inspirational from lots of points of view – of helping other people, of helping them see and reach their fullest potential. And what a delight that we live today in a culture that’s far different than it might have been 20 or 30 years ago where women play such a significant role in leadership and making a contribution in so many other areas. So, I’m so happy to hear that. Way to go!
Martha Saunders: Well, I am still the only woman president in the state university system in Florida, so we have a little more ways to go, I think.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that is great! I’ll tell you, in the great state of Utah, where I live – I was raised in San Francisco, but I’ve lived here for 50 years – we have some very impressive women presidents of our universities, and so, a great credit; they’re doing an inspirational job. Let’s just talk about leadership for a moment, Martha, if you will. There are so many challenges in education today. Universities are facing many challenges – economic challenges, enrollment challenges – and it’s like any other organization, in any industry, that leadership can be such a defining difference. What are some things that you found have really made a difference, as a university president, to help lead an institution forward with vibrancy and vision? What are some things you would recommend? What’s important? And these are things maybe that could be applied in other places.
Martha Saunders: I think the universities that are doing it best or any organization that is addressing change – and change is coming at lightspeed these days – these organizations have the ability to adapt. One of the things I’m really happy about, here at West Florida, is that we are not the largest university in the state, we are not the richest and not the oldest, but we are the most agile. We can turn on a dime the leadership up and down, there is a great deal of trust – I can pick up the phone and have the leadership on the phone, at least, in short order. We can talk about our problems, we set a plan, and we go. That comes from being receptive to change, recognizing that it’s going to happen, but also having enough trust in each other that when someone on the campus calls, we take the call and we respond.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh great! There’s some key things that you mentioned there, as well, that are so key in highly successful organizations. One is understanding what some of your strengths are, and your vision – you’ve talked about that – your agility, and the ability to pivot. And the other thing that you mentioned that’s so impressive is your team – the confidence you have in the team, having the right players, having the trust that together you can adapt to change. Any other tips on leadership you want to give before we shift to some other areas here in the discussion?
Martha Saunders: I wish I had more to give.
Steve Shallenberger: You’ve got a lot, I know!
Martha Saunders: I know what works, I’ve seen what doesn’t work, and I think you underscored teamwork, and I think that matters. I have watched a lot of people – maybe sometimes out of insecurity – struggle against their own teams, and that’s a real mistake. You do have to rely on each other. I remind my cabinet that if any one of them fails, the rest of us fail, and so, we have to not let that happen. But I think sometimes new leaders, in particular, out of their own insecurity, will try to have all the answers. I learned a long time ago I’m almost never the smartest person in the room. I may be the boss, but other people know a whole lot more than I do, and I need to listen.
Steve Shallenberger: I love that mindset! That is so important. That opens up so many avenues of possibilities! Tell us about the University of West Florida. We’d love to hear more about that.
Martha Saunders: Oh, I can talk about it all day long! UWF is in Pensacola, Florida. Pensacola is the westernmost city in Florida, so if you think of the panhandle, we are the westernmost city. We’re right on the Gulf of Mexico, with the most beautiful beaches in the world – we think – and lots of people agree. Our mayor says we are the western gate to the sunshine state. So, the university is 52 years old. We are one of the 12 universities, we were the sixth university to be established in the system and we are one of 12 very diverse universities. We all have very distinct missions. So, we are, by Florida standards, a sparsely rural populated part of the state. And let me put that in context: the eight counties that we call Northwest Florida constitute only 4% of the population of the state, so that sort of tells you a little bit about where we are, which makes it even more important that we linked arms with our local communities and stick together. We have a strong, strong military influence in this part of Florida – Eglin Air Force Base is here. I know that you, I think, have a flight background, but the Cradle of Naval Aviation is here in Pensacola. So, that’s where the Navy pilots are trained, and that spills over onto our campus. About one out of five students at UWF is military-affiliated. They’re either active duty or veterans – we have a strong Veterans’ Center – and are usually ranked in the top five or 10 support for veterans rankings. And then, we also have a lot of dependents here, too, and that influences the culture a bit. We have people who have lived in lots of places – it has added a cosmopolitan aspect to the area because you have people who’ve lived all over the world and then they come here and their children go to school with children here whose parents may not have ever traveled. So, it does color the area as well.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that’s a terrific overview! What an impressive place! I mean, not only the geography but also the demographics. Way to go! That’s very cool! Tell us about how West Florida is becoming Florida’s Innovation University.
Martha Saunders: I’d have to go back to our agility. But, as we have grown as a university, we have developed – as we should – very strong academic programs. We are a comprehensive university, so we teach the humanities and social sciences and science and technology, and all of those things, and we do them well. But, as we were looking at our 50th anniversary, we said, “You know, we need to pick a few things and do them better than anybody.” And one of the ways that we have done that is by leveraging Regional resources. We started about five years ago with a center for cybersecurity that has taken off like crazy! We were within a couple of years named as The Regional Hub for cybersecurity education by the NSA, for the entire southeast.
Steve Shallenberger: Oh my! Good!
Martha Saunders: And so, they picked us over a whole lot of other schools that they could have picked, and part of that is because of where we are. With the military influence, we call ourselves the cyber coast, and it is really, really called on. We also have a very important research institution here, called The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. They won the DARPA Award a couple of years ago. We have partnered with them for Florida’s first Ph.D. in intelligent systems and robotics. Again, we wouldn’t be able to do that if we weren’t leveraging the resources of the region. And so, we really see that as our way of making our mark and being better than anybody because we can and because of where we are.
Steve Shallenberger: I’m so glad you pointed that out! It’s very similar to people as they’re trying to pick their way through, to do what’s best in their life, of finding what their strengths are and building upon those strengths. You’re doing that in the community and making a difference.
Martha Saunders: We think so, and I think Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can with what you have where you are.” I would advise leaders, especially new leaders – we’ve all been to the conferences and we’ve all read the books, but plant yourself firmly where you are, and you will most likely be successful.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, well, that’s a great comment by President Roosevelt. Now, tell us about the University of West Florida’s Sea3D Lab. What’s that about?
Martha Saunders: Our Sea3D Lab has gotten very, very important in the last couple of weeks. This is a lab that we’ve set up downtown, and actually, our Museum of Commerce provides 3D printing resources for both the university and the community. Now, up until a few weeks ago, we did lots of things. We did maker space for many of our faculty, we would work with industry for machine parts and things that they can’t duplicate any other place. But now, we are making protective face shields for healthcare workers. In the current Coronavirus epidemic, these kinds of safety protective gear are very, very rare. We produced about 400 this week; supplies are getting a little low, but as soon as we get more, we’ll make more and we have more demand than we can meet right now. We’re also working with the other universities. We all have some similar labs and we’re looking at what we can produce at a time of great need of our communities – and that’s exactly what we should be doing.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that just kind of serves up this next question. I was thinking about universities, and as I’ve traveled around the world, where there are university centers, it just seems to totally energize not only the local area, but the state, and it’s just infectious, and it helps build a whole economic vitality. So, where do you see education going in the future and why is it such a critical element for future generations?
Martha Saunders: Education is changing. Higher ed is changing. There are a lot of demands – many of them are just economic demands. It costs money to educate people, the pot is dwindling, states in particular have a lot of needs. And so, there is more and more demand on higher ed, but I firmly believe that an educated, energized population can solve every problem. Smart people who are given the right tools to solve problems, will do so. And so, clearly, I have a bit of a bias, but education should be front and center as to things that we are supporting. I think we will see changes – we’re already seeing more demand for very specific credentialing. We’re seeing students come to us and say, “I want to package my own education. I appreciate what you all have put together here, but I want to put myself together in a different way.” And I think that’s awesome! I think for a young person today to come in and say, “I know where I’m going”, or “I think I know what I need, and I need for you to give me that.” And I think universities have a responsibility to be responsive. It will not come as a surprise that we don’t move real fast, in the university world, but we’re going to have to learn to move a lot faster. I think we will see a deeper appreciation of what we call core disciplines. It will always be important to be able to communicate – the more words you know, the more people you can reach. I think it will always be important to do math. It will always be important to be able to connect with people in fundamental ways. So, those things will never stop being important. I think how we package them will change.
Steve Shallenberger: Right. And one of the things that I’ve heard you saying is this total partnership with your community, where you’re going with your faculty and leaders, and to really keep pivoting and staying ahead – and I think those organizations that do that best will thrive, and those that don’t, are probably going to have a hard time. Time just flies; we’re at the end of our interview. It’s been so interesting hearing the things that you’re doing and the impact that you’re having. That’s fabulous! Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners today? Any encouragement and any thoughts?
Martha Saunders: I would really want to emphasize the importance of a team and team building. Some of us are learning how to be non-essential these days and as I sit here at my breakfast bar instead of in my studio on the campus, talking to you, I am so very grateful that I have a team out there. We have depth on the bench so that if one is not available, the other one is ready to step in and that’s what’s good for the institution or any institution.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. Dr. Saunders, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Martha Saunders: Well, I am on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. And I also have a blog that I’m very active on, at uws.edu/president’s blog.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. Well, that’s got to be terrific! Martha is so interesting. She has so much experience and that would be fun to go on to. So, thank you so much for being part of this show today. It’s been an absolute delight!
Martha Saunders: My pleasure!
Steve Shallenberger: Alright! We wish you the best as you’re touching so many lives! To all of our listeners, never forget that as you’re working on becoming your best, learning all the things that you can and applying them, and being good, you’re literally not only becoming your best, but you’re influencing others to improve, to grow. We started off this interview today and President Saunders talked about the people that helped her realize, really, some of the things that she could do. This is exactly the influence we can have on other people as well. So, this is Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world. We love hearing from you, we love getting your feedback and we’re honored that you will join us today. This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and we’ve got a really fun and interesting guest with us, today. She is an internationally recognized strategist and coach working with clients to clarify their idea worth sharing, and design their communication strategies and implement business growth systems. So, welcome, Dolores Hirschmann!
Dolores Hirschmann: Thank you so much, Steven, for having me!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, you bet. Before we get started, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Dolores. She is a writer, a TEDx organizer, a participant in Ted conferences. She is a CTI certified and ICF accredited coach – she’s going to tell us what those acronyms mean – and has a business degree from the Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina. Originally from Buenos Aires, Dolores speaks fluent Spanish, English, and French, and lives in Dartmouth, Massachusetts with her husband and four children. We’re excited to have her with us today! We’ll have her just tell us a little bit about herself – and that kind of leads in the first question, but we have some things in common. She was raised in Argentina and I had the chance to live in Argentina, and that’s where I first learned Spanish; then, I went from Argentina to Uruguay and Paraguay, and lugares in Mexico y España.
Dolores Hirschmann: So we can actually do this podcast in Spanish!
Steve Shallenberger: Yes! Yes, we could. For any of our Spanish speakers, you would enjoy that part – but now we’re totally in English.
Dolores Hirschmann: Yes, absolutely!
Steve Shallenberger: Alright, Dolores, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that’s had a significant impact on you, and especially to what you’re doing today, which is very interesting! We’re going to have the chance to talk quite a bit about it.
Dolores Hirschmann: Awesome! Thank you, Steven. So, I moved to the US when I was 25. But before that, there were two moments in my life that I would say were kind of a before and after. First was, when I was 20 years old, I was diagnosed with a pancreatic tumor and at that time I was 20, my older brother was 21, we were always fighting – fighting for the car, fighting for everything – and he sent me a nice note saying that he loved me and I’m like, “Oh my god! I must be really sick!” People actually thought I was going to die. I ended up having surgery in the US. But it was a before and after because it really made me understand or made me curious about what am I supposed to do here? So, that moment, although I kind of had it all along, that moment made me kind of focus on a hyper purpose. And what I mean by that is that my mindset shifted and I had this feeling like, “Okay, I’ve got a second chance. What am I going to do with it?” I think we all have this feeling like, what are we here to do on this earth? I think at 20 years old you don’t really spend too much time on that. I was forced to do that, and kind of forced into, “Hey, what am I going to do with my life?”
Dolores Hirschmann: And then, at 24, because I had nothing better to do – so says my father – I graduated from university and actually my graduating paper was “Marketing on the Internet, relationship Marketing” in 1996. I’m going to talk more about that later because without intending I came full circle. But into 1996, I had the idea to go and do community work in a remote part of the world – kind of what you did, Steven, in your work – and I ended up living in Malaysia, in insular Malaysia in Sabah, which is North Borneo. I lived there for three months, literally in the jungle, sleeping on a hammock between two trees. And I cried for the first two weeks because I had this romantic idea of what an adventure was and then when you’re actually living under a tree, all that romanticism goes away. I’m like, “Oh my god, this is not what I thought!” But, after two weeks of crying and asking myself, “Okay, do I quit? Do I go back home? Do I have the courage to do that or am I curious enough to stay and see who I can become in the process?” And I did. What I learned, Steven, is that nothing is more rewarding than leaning into a challenge and mastering yourself in it. What I mean by mastering yourself is literally finding who do you need to be to have the best experience you can with what there is – like, no showers, no toilet, bad food, and living in a jungle.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow!
Dolores Hirschmann: So, anyway, this brings me to today. I live in the US, I have four children – my pancreatic surgery did not hurt me that much, so I was able to be a mom – and I have spent pretty much all my life and the last six years of Masters In Clarity asking myself, “Why is it that ideas that can have a positive impact in the world sometimes die before they even start, or they die when they’re barely being born?” And what I mean by that is people with good ideas are not really capable of realizing the full potential and the impact that these ideas could have.
Steve Shallenberger: Right! Well, okay, that’s a great background! Thanks for sharing! It’s so interesting, and I think this is going to be really the heart of our discussion today, which is, how do people realize everything they’re capable of doing? That’s a tall order, really, but that’s what we believe: we believe every single person has the capacity to become their best, to be a high performer. And so, the things we’ll talk about today I think will be of great interest to our listeners in helping us be better at that, helping us do a little better. Now, before we dive into that, let’s go back. Tell us what a CTI certified and ICF accredited coach is.
Dolores Hirschmann: So, at 38, I started asking myself, “How do I wrap around my background?” I think many people feel that if you look at their LinkedIn or their resume, it’s all over the place, but what do I really do? How can I present myself in the marketplace, especially as an entrepreneur? So, I decided to go and study coaching. There’s many schools to study coaching and I chose something called CTI – which stands for The Coaching Training Institute – and ICF is the International Coaching Federation which is the organization that oversees coaching and accredits the programs to make them more robust.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good! Well, thanks for that! I hope your family is well. We’re in the middle of the Coronavirus crisis right now, in the very heat of the moment, and are you, folks, doing okay where you’re at?
Dolores Hirschmann: Yes, we are doing well, thank you for asking. I hope you and your family are as well, and everybody listening. I don’t know when this will air but you can’t hide from this – wherever you are in the world, you are experiencing it in one way or another. I think, for the first time in history, we can all say that we are in it together, worldwide.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah! How true! Okay, well, let’s talk about this subject. This is a big subject for us: how do we realize the best that we’re capable of? And so, let’s talk about what a Chief Clarity Officer is – that’s what Dolores is. What is that, first of all? Then we can talk about how to do it.
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah, that was kind of a play on words. I love playing with words. But honestly, that is my role. My role for my clients and my role for my team is that, presented with any situation any day, how do we find our way through it and how do we find clarity when we have the darkness of confusion. And so, if you ask me what would I do for free all day long is exactly that: is helping people sort through situations that may feel stuck – thus, the title that I gave myself: Chief Clarity Officer for our company that’s called Masters In Clarity.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good! Alright, well, let’s hit this subject. How can people realize their greatest potential?
Dolores Hirschmann: So, there’s a couple of elements, I believe: realizing that you have potential because I think the awareness or denying that we do is the first step – giving yourself permission to believe that you are brilliant and that that brilliance is really a gift that you were born with, and that you have spent time and energy over the years and over the course of your life, expanding on that gift. Whatever you’ve done – whether it’s your work experience, life experience, academic education – all of it is ingredients that you’ve put into the recipe of you. And so, today, you are, I would say, an agent of change. And the question is, what are you taking as a personal responsibility to ensure that you speak up, show up, and take action?
Steve Shallenberger: Alright. One of the things that you talk about is how to clarify what possibilities look like. What are the possibilities of a person? What’s your recommendation for a person in that area? How do they clarify these things that they might be really good at, and develop them? It’s not about comparing against other people – that’s the heart of Becoming Your Best. It’s becoming YOUR best, not somebody else’s best. And so, how do people start zeroing in on their strengths or things that they can parlay into serving other people, and making a difference, and leaving a legacy?
Dolores Hirschmann: Absolutely! I think this might be counterintuitive, but I would start by making a list of everything that comes easy to you because that’s going to reveal your strengths. Something that comes easy and you lean into doing more of that, it’s something that you enjoy, that you basically are wired for. Without doing this exercise, we might not reveal that. So, the first step is making that list of what comes easy to you. And then, looking at the list and searching for those that you say, “This comes easy to me, but I never really paid attention, therefore, I never nurtured it or worked on it to make it more of whatever that is.” So, the first step is identifying, and then, the second is nurturing and working on it more to make it even stronger. And third, go out – I know we can’t leave our house right now, but just serve with it in one way or another. Don’t build a business around it, don’t go get money for it. Just serve. And then, listen or experience it or just observe what happens when you intentionally serve with something that you know is one of your strengths. Because whether we’re talking about you as a leader to add value in your organization, or you as a leader to be the best in your community, or you as the leader to run a business, leaning into what you are wired to do and acknowledging yourself and communicating, “You know what? Here’s a role I can play because this is what I’m really good at” – this starts bringing and walking the path of clarity of purpose, and clarity of intention and action.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s a great answer! Thanks so much! One of the things you’ve talked about, Dolores, is how to align your outside growth with your inside growth. Tell us about that. What’s that? How do you see that?
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah, I see this a lot in my work. For the most part, 80% of my clients are business owners, and then, 20% of my clients are executives at companies. That can vary, but basically, at any point in our work – in whatever way you work – there are things that you might be asked to do or you know that you have to do, that you cannot recoil, that you shy away from. It could be a business owner saying you should go and speak in public and share about your work or it could be a leader having a difficult conversation with a team member or having to have a deeper conversation and potentially kind of discussing letting go of someone. The moments and situations that we are asked to experience, that sometimes feel really uncomfortable, the more we push ourselves to do something that inside of us we are trying to run away very fast from, that’s an indication that we are trying to perform beyond our internal capacity. As we build our emotional intelligence, as we build our internal capacity, personal strength of managing our self-doubt, of managing our imposter syndrome, of managing our self-confidence, managing the concept of trusting yourself and follow your intuition – these are all kind of internal process exercises – the more we are practicing these internally, the easier it is for us to take action on some tasks that might sometimes feel scary or overwhelming or we really don’t want to do them.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, yeah. That makes perfect sense. In other words, when you’re totally aligned inside, it’s a lot easier to be aligned outside.
Dolores Hirschmann: Exactly!
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that makes a big difference! Now, you’re a TEDx organizer. Tell us what that means.
Dolores Hirschmann: Oh, what that means is that a few years ago, it was weird – I was running my business, everything was going well, but there was something that I was missing. So, I asked myself, “What would I do for free all day long?” At that point, I had already been exposed to the TED Talks, I had been part of a team that did a TEDx, I had attended some events for the TED organizers. I was asked by someone in the community if I would lead a new TEDx event here in our community. And it was interesting because as I was asking myself what would I do for free all day long, the answer was, “Hangout with people with really big ideas.” So, it kind of all came together in a serendipity way. I think the best things happen that way. I agreed to organize, and what it means is that I volunteered to put together an event on one day, here in Massachusetts, and I put a team of volunteers together, we scheduled a venue here, and then we did an open application for speakers, speakers applied to speak at our event, and then we chose those speakers that were aligned with the conversation we wanted to have. So, that’s basically what it is. It’s not a paid thing. It is a license granted by the main Ted organization and it’s something that we, TEDx organizers, would do to bring a specific conversation of possibility and opportunity by sharing ideas amongst our community.
Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful! Oh, I’m so glad you shared that. I – and perhaps some of our listeners – may have wondered how that all happens. Great job!
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah, there you go! Now, the mystery is revealed.
Steve Shallenberger: There it is! You got it! That’s for sure. Now, Dolores, if you could go back and give your younger self one piece of business advice, what would that be?
Dolores Hirschmann: Oh, just do it! Don’t doubt yourself, you’ll be fine, even if you mess it up. At the end of the day, one day, we’re all going to die and here’s where my 20-year-old experience came back because the truth is, that day, even though I never truly believed that I was going to die – and I’m honest here – what I was feeling and what the doctors and my parents were saying just didn’t make any sense. I never really felt that I was dying, but they thought I was. But somehow, what stayed with me is that that is the final chapter and it’s actually pretty clear – we’re all going to do that. So, what does messing up mean? The worst thing is you die and then life ends, but in between – between now and that day – try things, break things, play with things. Be respectful, of course, but don’t shy away on “What if it goes wrong? What if people judge me?” So, if I were to say something to my younger self, is, don’t think it twice. Just do it?
Steve Shallenberger: I love it! Bravo. Amen! Yeah, just go out, have fun, get out, get in the ring, right?
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah! You need to break some eggs to make an omelet.
Steve Shallenberger: Jump in the arena! I love it. Now, any final tips you’d like to leave our listeners with, today? It’s been great! It’s been fun talking with you and hearing your perspective, your insight, your encouragement, your inspiration. Nice job! So, any final tips?
Dolores Hirschmann: Yes! And I think I’m going to give a tip that is true to the times that we’re living right now, Steven: as we all follow the rules and respect what we’re told so that we collectively protect each other, I want you to lean in what is possible as we co-create – we the world. Really I’m not exaggerating. We, the world. We, all people. It’s up to us to co-create what life will look like in a week, in a month, in three months, in two years. You know the saying, “Stop the world – I want to get off!“?
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah.
Dolores Hirschmann: Well, guys, the world stopped and we got off! So, when we go back into the world, what kind of world do we want to live in? And I think it’s up to each one of us to decide what kind of life you want to live in and pretend to live in that world, pretend that that world is real. If we were to all do that, from an aspiration perspective, understanding that it’s possible for all of us to be our best selves – oh, boy, that could be a really nice world to live in.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, a fresh start. That’s great! So Dolores, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah. You can check out our website at mastersinclarity.com and there’s an orange button that says “Start here”. Click the button and just jump in and have a conversation with us.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that’s pretty easy! mastersinclarity.com, right?
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah.
Steve Shallenberger: Hit the button! Get going!
Dolores Hirschmann: Yeah, don’t hesitate! We don’t bite.
Steve Shallenberger: Great! Well, thank you, Dolores, for being part of the Becoming Your Best show today. It’s been a delight having you here! We wish you the best as you’re making a difference in the world and blessing a lot of lives.
Dolores Hirschmann: Thank you so much, Steven, for having me!
Steve Shallenberger: You bet! And to all of our listeners, wherever you may be, we’re thinking of you today. I’m inspired by you, by your efforts, by your desire to become your best – and in the very process, you are blessing other people, just through the very fact that you’re trying. Well, it’s been great to be together with Dolores! We’re signing off. This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger. I’m delighted to have an adventurous guest with us today! He has a graduate degree in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania and has a fascination in how people and businesses can make better decisions. He has presented at Antarctic conferences, appeared on cable TV in the US and on Internet radio talk programs. His talks focus on leadership, teamwork, and winning against the odds. He’s based in London and is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. He’ll tell us about his background here, in a moment, but, welcome Brad Borkan!
Brad Borkan: Thank you, Steven. It’s great to be here!
Steve Shallenberger: I’m so delighted! Before we get started today, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Brad. In his book, Brad focuses on the real life-and-death decisions made by early Antarctic explorers and reveals amazing lessons in leadership, teamwork, and sheer grit and determination that can help all of us make better decisions in our lives today. These can be especially useful when confronting adversity – and man, do we have adversity today, don’t we, Brad?
Brad Borkan: We sure do!
Steve Shallenberger: Also, building effective teams and trying to succeed against the odds – all important skills in today’s world. I’ll tell you why I’ve been so excited to have this interview with Brad: one of my favorite all-time books is “Endurance” by Ernest Shackleton. We’ll talk about all of those things. I’m excited to have Brad share stories today. So, before we dive into this interview, Brad, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you and how did you end up where you are today?
Brad Borkan: Okay, well, that’s a long question! A lot of places to go with that! I work for a large software company. So, my career has been working for large software companies, and I’ve always had this underlying interest in Antarctica – and therefore Antarctic explorers – which really started from about the age of eight, and having my mother working in a public library, and every day after school, I’d have to go to the public library and hang around until she got finished work. And I was just as a typical eight-year-old boy would be, just bored out of my mind, until I picked up a book – and it probably was something like the book about the endurance – the Shackleton’s voyage, where the ship broke up in the ice, and they had to fight for survival. It just captivated me, and it’s just stayed with me for the rest of my life.
Brad Borkan: But the turning point, I think, what’s interesting in the whole journey just as a normal person working for large software companies and thinking that’s my career, and yet, in the back of my mind, there’s always these Antarctic stories. And what was interesting was, the more I looked at the Antarctic explorers, the early ones – they never achieved any of their primary goals. In fact, they all failed at their primary goals. And here I am, trying to move up in the software company, thinking “I’m not getting as high up as I want to be.” And it’s a remarkable thing when you look at – I’ll tell some of the stories from my book – the real-life stories from the explorers. I got to a point where I’m thinking, “I’m not getting to my goal, so what else can I do?” And it was at that point, when I thought, “How do I put my two passions together – focus on decision-making, focus on Antarctica and the likes expeditions” and I thought, “Actually, no one’s ever written a book where they said, what’s the most interesting thing about the early explorers, was the life-and-death decisions they made.” And so, at that point, I said, “I’ll still work for a large software company, but I’m going to turn my life towards creating that book and writing that book.” Because it is not about writing history. What I’m interested in is writing a book for modern people, very similar to your book, in the sense that it’s how do you help modern people make better decisions – and the Antarctic explorer stories are the framework for telling how to make better decisions.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, first, before we get going – for all of our listeners, that is so inspiring, Brad! Way to be! Way to take your native interest and figure out how to bring these worlds together, and how to lift the world and make it better, just joining these forces in a way that is very positive. Way to go! That’s inspiring!
Brad Borkan: Thank you!
Steve Shallenberger: You bet! Now, tell us about your book. The book is, “When Your Life Depends On It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic”. Tell us all about that.
Brad Borkan: Great! Yes, that’s the title. We tend to just call it, “When Your Life Depends On It” – and it’s the life-and-death decisions that the early Antarctic explorers made on the ice, and then what we can learn from them, for modern-day decision making. And the remarkable thing is they made a lot of life-and-death decisions, and they all came very near death all the time, but actually, very rarely died. So, in a way, it’s very uplifting because you’re reading about all this adventure, and danger, and science, and discovery, and exploration, and at the same time, it’s about risk and danger and challenges – at times they’re starving, at times they have scurvy, at times they just have so much hardship and yet, for the most part, they get through. And it’s just the most remarkable uplifting stories.
Brad Borkan: I think this is where it becomes so valuable for modern-day people because even ignoring what’s going on in the world today, in the early 2020 – I mean, whether people listen to this audio within two years from now, and hopefully this will be in the past what’s happening right now in the early 2020 – but the concept that we all have adversity, whatever period we are in our own lives, we face a certain amount of adversity. And here, you have a bunch of people who faced extreme adversity for long periods of time, and how they got through it. It’s just a great roadmap for how we can deal with adversity. The stories are really just incredible! And maybe I can just tell one, for a little bit.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, sure, please! I hope we’ll be able to hear quite a few of these stories!
Brad Borkan: Okay, this was probably what struck me the most; of all the stories, there’s this one story where Shackleton is going out on Scott’s expedition. The first real major expedition to Antarctica, where they were really going to try to penetrate the interior of Antarctica was Captain Scott’s. And this is around 1903. So, he takes a team of men – like 40 men – and they’re really mostly scientists, and they’re basically doing science down there. But Scott has this idea. He’s going to take three men – well, him and two others – and they’re going to explore, at least travel as far as they can, just to learn how to travel in Antarctica and get into the interior. They know they’re not going to get to the South Pole, but they’re just going to try to get somewhere along the way. They go about 300 or 400 miles, they don’t get to their goal – like I said, no one ever gets to their goal in Antarctica – so they miss their objective by about 130 miles.
Brad Borkan: As they’re returning, Shackleton gets scurvy. Shackleton, at this point, is a junior member of their team and he’s literally dying. So, they’re putting all of their belongings on the sledge, they’re pulling this sledge by harnesses – it’s called manhauling – they’re literally pulling the sledge along. Now, Shackleton’s so weak and so ill and close to death that he’s laying on the sledge on top of all their belongings – which is their tents and sleeping bags, whatever remains of food they have, their cooking equipment, their scientific equipment – and he’s literally dying. He does survive, they get back to base camp on the relief ship that comes back that next season to restock the scientists with the supplies and food and things like that. Since Shackleton’s back home in disgrace – here you have this guy, he’s got a lot of pride, he’s got a lot of ambition and he’s sent back home to England. And you’d think, this guy is nearly dead, he nearly died, they missed their goal – what did he do? The remarkable thing is he comes back to England, he tells everyone what a great expedition it was and how exciting it was to be in the middle of Antarctica. And yes, he almost died, but it was just absolutely thrilling to be there, and he wants to go back again. It’s just like, he took what many people would have just deemed as failure and just turned it on his head and said, “This was a big success!” And I think that’s just such an inspirational story!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, that is, isn’t it? Boy, isn’t that a great lesson in life for people?
Brad Borkan: Yes, exactly! And then, to take this to the next story – and this is where it really affected my life was listening to this next story – he sets up his own expedition and spends two years fundraising and getting a ship and getting men and getting supplies and then he’s like, “Well, we’re going to go back to Antarctica, do what Scott did – we’re going to follow the same route – we’ll take four men this time and we’re going to actually get to the South Pole because now we know what to do, and now we’ve got a bit more experience.” They get to within 103 miles – so they’ve walked about 700 miles pulling a sledge, and they get to about 103 miles to go – and they’re running out of food. They know they’re going to run out of food on the journey back. So, the question then, becomes, what do you do? Your goal is in sight, you’ve spent two years setting up the expedition, your goal’s in sight, what are you going to do?
Brad Borkan: And this is really quite remarkable. You’d think it’s like a binary decision; it’s like, either you go forward and you’ll probably die on the way back – because they had so little food left – or you just turn around. It really just feels like one or the other, doesn’t it? But Shackleton sees a third way. He’s like, “No! What we’re going to do is, we’re at 103 miles, we’re going to leave the tent, the sleeping bags, everything behind, we’re going to walk south as far as we can for one day, we’ll plant the flag, and we’ll turn around and start heading home.” And the question, then, is why did he do that? And he did that because he wanted to cross the 100-mile mark. He wanted to get back to England and say, “We got to within 100 miles of South Pole”, which he thought sounded a whole lot better than 103 miles of South Pole.
Brad Borkan: And it’s just a way of how do you deal with failure? In modern-day business, how do you deal with failure? How do you deal with setback? And I now think of it as like, you plant the flag, you say, “Okay, now I’m going to plant the flag and somehow eke out a victory out of this.” And this is really the way I deal with my career. I basically said, “Okay, I’ve gotten to this level in corporation, this is where I’m going to plant my flag, and now I’m going to turn around and find my next goal” – and my next goal was working on the book. There are just inspiring stories like that.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, what a terrific insight! And, wow, that’s so powerful, isn’t it? That it’s not necessarily binary – we want to be thinking about all of the different options. Is that one of the things you’ve discovered from these stories?
Brad Borkan: Yes, exactly! I think there are many times – and Shackleton was really the best at this, but actually, all the explorers were like that – when it really feels like you’ve got a choice, which is a or b; you get so caught up in this a or b, you actually miss that actually, there’s a third option. I just need to finish that story because Shackleton is missing his goal – he spent two years like I was saying, planning the expedition, raising funds, all this stuff – he misses his goal, he writes to his wife, he sends her a letter and he says, “I thought you’d rather have a live donkey than a dead lion.”
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great, isn’t it? Good job, good perspective!
Brad Borkan: It is! It’s amazing!
Steve Shallenberger: Live to go after it another day, right?
Brad Borkan: Exactly!
Steve Shallenberger: Gain the lessons you’ve learned.
Brad Borkan: I could go on for hours about this. There’s so many lessons that come out of the books that you can bring into modern living. One thing that they were very good at was making decisions. Every time they came to a decision point – and this was true across all the early expeditions – they made decisions and they took them on head-on and they were just like, “We’re here, we’ve got to make a decision” and they made decisions very quickly.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah.
Brad Borkan: Our book opens with this incredible story of these three guys on the ice. We don’t tell you who they are – just three guys on the ice. They’ve gone out 700 miles. We don’t tell you which expedition it was on or anything like this. They’re on the way back and similar, in a way, to the Shackleton story, one of them gets scurvy, but he actually is their commanding officer. And he’s really, literally, dying, and they’ve got like 200 miles to go, and they’re pulling him along in the sledge and he is really in dire straits and he’s their commanding officer and about 70 miles to go to base camp – there’s just no one that will come out to rescue them because they had no communication methods; they had no telephony or radios or anything – he says to them, “We’re all running out of food, and I’m just weighing you guys down. So, you go carry on without me. Just leave me on my sleeping bag on the ice to perish.”
Brad Borkan: And when they hesitate to make a decision – think about this difficult, complex, moral, ethical decision – he says, “I’m your commanding officer – as your commanding officer, I’m giving you a military order. To disobey is mutiny.” But they made a decision very quickly. They decided to stay with him and that they would continue on as far as they could go. It’s just a remarkable story about survival. And they all came near death a lot. He had a very long military career – he was Lieutenant Evans – he had a very long military career afterwards, and he said, after being part of the Royal Navy for 50-60 years, that the only military order he ever gave that was disobeyed was that one.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow! And they survived! That’s amazing, isn’t it?
Brad Borkan: It’s just a remarkable story, but the thing was what they were able to do, and I think this is important in modern business because people say we’re here now – and this is true even when you look at where we are right now in business today – we are where we are, and you can’t blame situations. You’ve got to focus on how do we take our next step forward? And in Antarctica in the cold, in the winds, in the terrain and in the frostbite and in all those different things they’re suffering, risking, you can’t waste a lot of psychic energy being, “Why did we get here? How did we get here? Look at all the things that went wrong!” Or blame this guy, blame that guy. They just said, “How do we move forward?” I think it’s a good lesson.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah! That is! Well, Brad, from your experience, what are the three biggest leadership lessons you’ve learned from doing the research for your book?
Brad Borkan: I think probably the most interesting one was the idea of the second in command. And we don’t see this in modern business, today. We tend to set up teams – and working for big software companies, we set up teams all the time – we tend to have, “Here’s the team leader and here are the people on the team.” And the second in command concept – in Antarctica, everything was done in teams; there were small teams of three people, five or four people, 10 people, but whatever team they had, there was always a second in command – whether it was a spoken second in command or it was unspoken, but it was very clear this guy was second in command. I think this is a wonderful concept that businesses could use because that second in command enables the other people in the team to go to somebody who’s not the leader and gripe about another person or get more guidance about a task that they’re unsure of without feeling like, “Am I jeopardizing my job? Is the boss going to think I’m an idiot?” So it’s actually a structure that works extremely well that I think it’ll be great to bring back into business. It worked really well in Antarctica.
Brad Borkan: The one thing about these expeditions is they’re all multi-year expeditions, so they’re there over the summer – well, the Antarctic summer is still frighteningly cold – and they’re there through the winter when it’s dark for six months of the year. And yet, across these six expeditions that we studied, there’s not even a history of fistfights. There’s no murder, there’s no mayhem, there’s no sabotage. These people acted with purpose. And it is just remarkable because, certainly, in other expeditions to Antarctica, to the Arctic, around the world, there have been horrible situations of murder and things like that. And yet, here you had these people acting purposefully – and I think that’s the second big lesson, was that everyone knew the purpose, this sense of knowing why you’re there and the role you play and the value you play in the team. In any team of the big expeditions, I think that was important.
Brad Borkan: The third one was really around the concept of, they couldn’t always make perfect decisions, but they had this sense of – and this was from the leaders downwards – even if we make a bad decision, we are resilient enough to recover from it. And that’s an important skill. I think a lot of times we make a bad decision and everyone’s like, “Oh, we made a bad decision.” It’s like, “Wait a minute! How do we figure out the strategy that we’re all resilient, we’re all brave, we all have the wherewithal to figure out how to get out of this bad decision? How do we start making good decisions?”
Steve Shallenberger: Wow, that’s good. That’s something I don’t hear often, but I love it! Just kind of the recognition that we’re in this together, this is a process and we’re going to make the best decision we can and if it doesn’t turn out perfectly, we’re resilient. We can fix this and get to a better place. You’re saying it works out?
Brad Borkan: Yes! For them, it always worked out. I mean, we were talking about the book, “Endurance” at the start of the show – and this is where Shackleton’s ship gets crushed in the ice. So this is after the South Pole’s been conquered, and now Shackleton sets up another expedition where he wants to set the first team of people, to be the first man to walk across the continent of Antarctica. So, he sets up an expedition where there are two ships: one going from Australia, New Zealand, coming down to one coast of Antarctica – they’re going to depose along the way up about to the South Pole; the other ship that he’s on is going to come down from the Argentina side and they’re going to drop off a set of men and then that set of men is going to walk across, and then they’re going to pick up the supplies on the other side.
Brad Borkan: I think that expedition is quite a remarkable one because Shackleton never starts, actually. His ship comes down into the Weddell Sea, which is the sea just off the coast of Argentina – if you look at a map of the world, it’s the one closest to Argentina – and gets stuck in the ice and gets crushed, and then they’re stuck and trying to survive and trying to get out. All they have left is three lifeboats – how are these 28 men going to survive? A remarkable story, but the reason they got into trouble in the first place was because Shackleton made a bad decision – and the bad decision was there was a landing spot… You don’t want to land and set up your camp on ice. You’ve got to set your camp on the continental land. Even though there’s sea ice all around, at times the sea ices are breaking up and you can steer your boat towards land. And he’s like, “I don’t want to land here because we can get closer, so my starting point would save me 60 miles of walking.” And so, they get to the first spot, basically, and they never found the second one because the sea ice just crushed the ship – just trapped the ship and crushed it. The men never really blamed Shackleton for that bad decision, and I think that sense of saying, “We are where we are in this. We’ve just got to move forward.” And this sense of just being resilient and saying, “Okay, we’ve got a new goal, we’ve got to get ourselves home and we’ve got to just accept that there’s a bad decision, but we can recover from it.”
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s nice. That’s excellent! Brad, how can we apply the lessons learned from the Antarctic explorers to our lives today?
Brad Borkan: That’s a good question! It has a lot to do with what we think of as adversity. When I read these stories about the early explorers, I’d encourage your listeners, whether it’s my book, or there’s so many wonderful books written about Shackleton, about Captain Scott, about Amundsen, about Mawson and other explorers – these stories are so inspirational because their decision-make was very pure. Their decision-make was there on a place when they were not going to get any help from anybody else. There was no one they could call, they didn’t have that sort of electronic equipment to call anybody – even if they could call somebody, there was no one that had ever been in their place and could give them any advice. When you read about what they endured and what they did and how they survived and where they got their inspiration from, it is things that we can bring into our personal life. It’s very much like your book, in the sense of there are so many inspirational stories – your book is filled with these wonderful quotes and wonderful stories – and the Antarctic stories are equally exciting and, at the same time, they’re inspirational.
Brad Borkan: There’s a story where Mawson falls into a crevasse – he happens to be on its own at this time, but that is a longer story about why he’s on his own, but he’s on his own, he falls in that crevasse and the only thing that holds him from death is the harness from his sledge – that hadn’t fallen in on top of him – that was anchored at the top, on this ice and he’s dangling below. He’s very weak, he’s got very little food, he’s very malnutritioned, and he tries to climb up the harness – this rope is about 14 or 15 feet down in the crevasse. And then, he was not wearing Thinsulate, he was wearing old-fashioned cloth – woolen clothing, heavy boots; he was all covered in ice, and he starts to climb up, and he falls back down, and luckily his sledge doesn’t come crashing back down on top of him. And he just thinks he should give up. But he gets inspiration from a poem that he remembers. These stories are so fascinating because you can apply them to your modern life and it’s like, when I really feel down, where can I get inspiration from? It may not be poetry, but it may be a story, a book, a quote – you’ve got so many great quotes in your book – there’s so many things you can get inspiration from to give you that little extra energy to get to the next day.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, how inspirational! I can see that! Well, before we end up – and I’m always amazed at how fast this goes – what’s one of your favorite stories? Another one of your favorite stories, Brad?
Brad Borkan: Actually, this is one of my favorite stories! I don’t get a chance to tell it very much. After Shackleton’s ship gets crushed in the ice, you’ve got 28 men and they’re on the sea ice. And because there were only about 10 men that were going to walk across the Antarctic continent, they were the ones who had fur sleeping bags. It wasn’t a military operation, but still, you had officers and men – they’re all male, but they always had this classification. The officers would get better food, they get better equipment, they get better accommodation on the ship. The men were the lower-ranking people. And so, they end up all on the ice, there are 10 fur sleeping bags – the rest are these wool cloth sleeping bags, not as warm. And where normally everyone assumed that the officers got the fur sleeping bags – that’s just the way it worked – Shackleton has brought everyone together and said, “We’re going to draw straws for who gets the fur sleeping bags – and there’s no trading. Once it’s decided, it’s decided.” He sets this up and remarkably, to the disbelief of every low-ranking men on the ship, they were the ones who got the fur sleeping bags. None of the officers got fur sleeping bags.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow!
Brad Borkan: Shackleton clearly rigged the textbook. It was his way of saying, “We’re all in this together and rank, now, doesn’t matter. It’s about survival.”
Steve Shallenberger: That’s awesome!
Brad Borkan: This is a great story, isn’t it?
Steve Shallenberger: It is a great story! Yeah, very inspirational. So, any final tips you’d like to leave our listeners with, today?
Brad Borkan: Well, I think, actually, it’s funny. I saw your list in your book of your 12 points and your last one says, “Never give up” – and that is exactly what we have, actually, as the last point in our book. And we say it slightly different; we say, “Never ever give up trying.” And I think this concept that, yes, Shackleton couldn’t get to the South Pole – he got to 97 miles – he kept trying until he got to a point where it’s like, “Okay, now we’re really risking our lives.” But that’s the concept of just, “Never give up!” Just keep on going; keep on going one foot in front of the other and just don’t give up. You’ve got to find other angles as you may have to set new goals, you may have to pivot from one goal to another, you may have to look at how you change your teams around. Nowadays, it’s like, how do you rejig your business? How do you turn from doing X to doing Y? But you just keep going, you just keep pursuing and seeking and challenging yourself and achieving.
Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful! And Brad, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Brad Borkan: Well, my website is called www.extreme-decisions.com. The book’s available on Amazon – it’s in print and on Kindle, and it’s an audiobook. And just a quick note about the audiobook because I listened to easily 100 voices before I chose Dennis Kleinman. Dennis has the most remarkable voice! I’ve tried to figure out, “What would early Antarctic explorer sound like?” And I thought it’s a rough, gravelly, male deep voice – I thought I don’t have that. I tried to record my own audiobook but then, after two paragraphs, I thought, “This is just not working!” And I found Dennis – he has the most remarkable voice and it’s the most remarkable recording. And we ended up in Hollywood at the Voice Arts Awards for the best audiobook in the history category. We didn’t win, sadly – we lost to “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan – but we were up against a book that was up for Pulitzer Prize; all the other books were New York Times bestseller books, and then, there was our book – a book about Antarctica. At that point, we had around 28 reviews on Amazon, but that’s what we were in there for – it’s Dennis’s voice recording this audiobook. So, I’d encourage your listeners, if you have a subscription to Audible, it’s just a remarkable rendition of these stories. It’s just incredible!
Steve Shallenberger: I cannot wait to get it! I’ll start listening to it right away, Brad!
Brad Borkan: Thank you! Thank you. Yeah, we were there. That was Voice Arts Awards, we were in Burbank at Warner Brothers studios, a red carpet event; Sigourney Weaver was there and Van Jones and it’s just incredible! It’s like the Grammys or the Oscars – a celebrity analysis, the category and then the entries and then they rip up the envelope – but it wasn’t us.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah. Well, dang it! Sorry about! What an honor to even be there though, right?
Brad Borkan: It was actually one of the most exciting things in my life. And when we started the show, we were talking about changing your life. Literally, the change from saying, “Am I going to achieve my goal in the software business?” And thinking, “No, I’m not. How do I pivot from that?” And check and choose another goal. So many remarkable things have happened, and being on your show is one of the highlights as well.
Steve Shallenberger: Great! Well, congratulations! And if you don’t mind, for our listeners, before we started the show today, Brad and I were just visiting, would you mind sharing your comment in regards to Becoming Your Best?
Brad Borkan: I started reading this book and I thought, “All of these 12 points, every single one of them applies to the Antarctic explorers.” When you look at what these guys achieved in these science discovery explorations in the harshest conditions possible, every single point in Steven’s book, they applied. Absolutely! If I had a cookie cutter, I could cut and paste my book into your book or your book into my book.
Brad Borkan: And these guys achieved the most remarkable things of science – and I know we’re going to run out of time, but the baseline for science, for climate change in Antarctica today came from these early expeditions. The banning of DDT, in the 1960s and 1970s when they were trying to prove that DDT was harmful, and it was pervasive in animal species around the world, even in Antarctic penguins, people said, “Wait a minute! I supposed DDT is inherent in a penguin’s skin, in penguin’s DNA – is part of their DNA.” And they went back to penguin’s skins that are preserved – because they’re in taxidermy exhibits in the National History Museum in London – gotten from Scott’s expedition in 1903, and compared the skins and they realized there was no DDT in penguins in 1903.
Brad Borkan: There’s so much science! They’re taking the science that was done on Captain Scott’s expedition, and they’re applying the scientific methods we have in 2020 and analyzing their data and coming out with new results from data that was captured 100 years ago. It’s just remarkable! And then, also, they were like the NASA of their generation. When we think of NASA and all the spin-off technologies that came out of NASA – there were spin-off technologies that came from there. Like treaded vehicles; they were experimenting with all-terrain treaded vehicles. This was before World War One tanks, before people made tanks or anything like that, they were playing around with treaded all-terrain vehicles which are the basis for tanks, are the basis for the vehicles today. The clothing: when we think about dressing for the cold, if you live in Minnesota, you live in Maine or wherever, and you wear layered clothing – all that came from Scott’s expedition. Before that, explorers wore it first. There’s so many interesting things that come out of these stories.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s fabulous!
Brad Borkan: Your book dovetails so well into this and I’d encourage your listeners and readers to learn more about the early explorers as well.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s really good! Well, you know, I didn’t invent those things. They came from research of what sets apart high performers from all others. Wherever we saw excellence, those 12 principles were present, and you just have observed them and written about them in these great leaders from the Antarctic. Thank you, Brad! It has been such a delight to have you with us today! So fun and we could go on, but I’m excited to read your book. We wish you all the best as you’re making a difference in the world!
Brad Borkan: Thank you, Steven! It’s just a pleasure to be here and a pleasure to be on your show and to meet you.
Steve Shallenberger: You bet! And to all of our listeners, this is a great reminder today – the things you’re doing, your efforts are literally leaving a legacy for others that you may not even be aware of. And just like these explorers, you do these things, you make a difference, but it’s still touching people 50 and 100 years later or hundreds of years later. So, thanks so much! This is Steve Shallenberger, wishing you a great day, and signing off with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership.
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, and we have a special guest with us today. This is going to be an extraordinary experience! She grew up as one of seven children on a dairy farm in rural Australia, personal adversity, backpacking solo around the world, starting a business with four children under five, have taught her valuable lessons on building resilience, challenging norms, and embracing change. So, welcome Margie Warrell! It’s so good to have you!
Margie Warrell: It’s fantastic to be with you! Thank you for inviting me.
Steve Shallenberger: You bet! Well, before we get started today, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Margie, and if we were ever having extraordinary times, we’re in the middle of it. We’re in the middle of the Coronavirus – certainly one of the biggest worldwide crises of the last 150 years. So, it’s going to be doubly interesting talking with Margie about this. She draws on her background in Fortune 500 business, coaching and psychology, to arm people with the mindset strategies and skills essential to lead themselves and others to better outcomes. Margie’s work draws on the latest research in positive and behavioral psychology, leadership development and organizational change. So, let’s get into this! We’re going to have a great visit today. Margie, tell us about your background, including any turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you – and how did you get to where you are today?
Margie Warrell: Oh, wow! There’s a lot that I could add and put into that answer, Steve. I’ve had numerous different forks in the road, you might say, where it was like, “Which fork do we take?” I think if I was going to sum anything up, I’ve often gone toward the more adventurous, less certain, less-traveled path, numerous times. I moved to Papua New Guinea, actually, with my husband, just a year or so after we were married in the mid 1990s, and that proved to have some very interesting experiences that were both very challenging for me, but also very formative for me. And then, of course, much of my last 25 years I has been living around the world. My husband’s career has taken us around the world – that has had some upsides, but it’s also had some pretty big downsides and disruptions in recent years. I think along the way, Steve, what I’ve learned is that most of us are capable of a lot more than we think, and we often sell ourselves short and probably short-change the world in the process. It’s why I have such a passion for empowering people to live and lead more bravely.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that is a terrific background! I think our listeners will really enjoy a number of things here today. First of all, this show is coming from Singapore. That’s where she’s at right now, which is in the middle of a number of big-time challenges. We’ll talk about that. As I studied about Margie’s life and background, I went on the internet and it’s fun to do that with people – you get to learn so much. Well, she’s going to tell her story. Tell us about Andrew, what’s just happened? Tell us what’s happened with you because I think that’s a great setup for this.
Margie Warrell: Well, yeah, there’s no irony lost in the middle of me launching my book called, “You’ve Got This” and telling everybody we need to trust ourselves more, then my husband Andrew has contracted Coronavirus – COVID-19 – and currently today, I think it’s day 17 of being in the hospital for this awful virus. And so, I truly had to walk my own talk in the last couple of weeks, and as he’s battled this virus, I’m very, very, very grateful to say, as we’re recording this, that he has turned the corner and it’s looking extremely positive for him to return to full health. But, it’s been a roller coaster of a few weeks and I’ve really had to numerous times just stop, take a big deep breath and remind myself that I’ve got this, he’s got this – we’ll figure this out. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t felt immensely vulnerable and overwhelmed on numerous occasions.
Steve Shallenberger: And you’ve tested positive?
Margie Warrell: No, actually I have not tested positive. I was put under a very strict 14-day stay-at-home quarantine by the Singapore government, along with my son Ben, who is a senior in high school here. The Ministry of Health here, they’ve got very elaborate and extremely effective systems in Singapore, and three times a day, they have called us and checked our temperature. And if at any point, our temperature had got up even into a mild fever, they would have sent an ambulance to pick us up and take us off to the hospital. But actually, we weren’t ever tested because we’ve got through our two-week quarantine now and never got sick.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s a blessing! But we’ll be thinking of Andrew, and you, and your family; we hope that he’ll be okay and have a full recovery. I just can’t imagine all the thoughts that have gone through your mind.
Margie Warrell: Yeah, there’s been a lot going on, as a mother and as a wife, so it’s definitely an interesting time to be talking to you about what does it mean to live our lives with greater trust in ourselves and being more grounded in our capacity for life, when I’ve well and truly been confronted with all the fears that often keep us from trusting ourselves and our ability to rise to the challenges that we’re dealing with right now.
Steve Shallenberger: Great! Now, tell us about your book.
Margie Warrell: Yeah. So, I wrote, “You’ve Got This” – it’s actually my fifth book. I decided to write it about 18 months ago because we were living in the US for 11 years, then we were moved to Australia, my husband’s company said, “We’ll move you back to the US” and then they decided to move us to Singapore. It was pretty disruptive from a family perspective. And for me, I do a lot of work, obviously, empowering people to be braver in how they live and how they lead and how they communicate, and yet, in the face of so much uncertainty, I had to really lean into myself and just trust that “You know what? Whatever happens, whatever the future holds, I’ll figure this out.”
Margie Warrell: And in my experience, in my work around the world, so often I meet people who doubt themselves too much, and who let fear sit in the driver’s seat of their lives – it keeps them from pursuing the aspirations that would light them up, that would be most meaningful to them, from making changes to aspects of their life that aren’t working for them, and in the midst of change to just having faith that they’ll get through the other side of it. And so, often our self-doubts keep us from trusting ourselves. We give them so much power. So, I really wanted to write a book that would help people doubt themselves less and trust themselves more and just have more faith in themselves and in the biggest game of life, in the higher intelligence that ultimately the dots always connect – we just have to be patient, often, in the midst of it all to figure out how this is ever going to work out.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, good! Thanks for the background on that. I had two questions that came to mind. Firstly, I’d be so interested and maybe our listeners would be interested in the research. What’s some of the most impressive research that you’ve done, that stood out for you that you’ve used in your book?
Margie Warrell: I’ve done a lot of research. I’m actually in the midst of doing my doctorate, at the moment, so I certainly was leaning on a lot of the research I’m doing as part of my Ph.D. A few things stand out: when it comes to self-doubt, none of us are immune to self-doubt – except for perhaps serial narcissists. Most of us, we all have moments where we wonder, “Do I have what it takes? Have I got the skills, the knowledge, the know-how, the talent to get from where I am to where I want to go?” And we often struggle with this imposter syndrome, “When are people going to cotton on to the fact that I don’t know as much as they think?” I don’t know if you’ve had that, Steve, but I’ve certainly had it numerous times where I’m waiting for everyone to realize, “You know, she doesn’t know as much as we thought she knew”, or “She’s not as worthy of where she is, as we thought she was.” And I know I’m not alone in that.
Margie Warrell: And so, some of the research I found in regard to doubt, for instance, is that when we learn to doubt our doubt, to really challenge those stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves, about who we are and what we can do, it can help to reclaim the power that we give the doubts, and help us to then give ourselves permission to try things even though we’re not sure we’re going to succeed – to be braver in what we do. And the most powerful thing is, when we do those things we’re afraid that we might not be able to do, what we inadvertently discover is that actually, we’re capable of more than we thought, that we often have underestimated ourselves.
Margie Warrell: And so, often, I’m sure you’ve met people or you can even think back in your own life to times where you were really worried you were going to fail at something or fall short at something, and then you did it and you’re going, “You know what? That wasn’t so bad!” And so, we build more confidence by actually defying our self-doubts. And so, part of the key message of the book is to dare to defy the little doubting voices in your head; dare to take a risk, to back yourself. And in doing that, what we discover is actually we had far less reason to be afraid than we thought, and that’s why I think it’s so important that we continually give ourselves permission to do things, even though we’re uncomfortable, and even though we have doubts – not to wait until the doubts are gone, but to take action in the presence of our doubts.
Steve Shallenberger: I love it! I’m so glad I asked about that. Doubt the doubt! Dare to defy! I love it! Those are so good! We’re in the middle of just releasing another book called, “Conquer Anxiety”. It’s a terrific book. We’ve written it together with John Skidmore – who is a doctor in psychology – and it’s been wonderful! And the way we describe this is “Monkey Chatter” – in other words, “you can’t do it, you’re not good enough”, all of those kinds of things, that’s the monkey chatter – and to challenge the monkey chatter. Well, I love what Margie is saying here: doubt the doubt; dare to defy. Good job! Here’s the follow-up question: you described a lot of change, a lot of disruption, and things going on – what have been some of the top lessons that you’ve learned in the middle of all that?
Margie Warrell: I think one of the key things is we have to give ourselves permission to be fully human and to embrace our vulnerability. And often, when we’re dealing with challenging situations, it gives rise to confronting emotions, to fear or doubt, to anxiety, to sadness, to a sense of feeling like we’re being left behind or you name it – there are often some pretty uncomfortable emotions. So, one of the key lessons I’ve learned myself is to really embrace our sense of vulnerability, to sit and feel our emotions. Robert Frost once said, “The only way out is through.” And often, when we’re feeling something, we’re feeling anxious or we’re feeling unsure of ourselves – there’s a lot of uncertainty in what we’re dealing with right now in the midst of this pandemic – that we often want to numb it down or distract ourselves or busy ourselves or deny it. We don’t want to have to be with it.
Margie Warrell: And I think it’s incredibly powerful to simply, in the midst of those times when we find ourselves feeling unsettled, uncertain, anxious, to just stop and feel fully into our feelings, feel our vulnerability, acknowledge it, even label the emotion. Actually, a study by UCLA found that simply labeling our emotions can help to deactivate that monkey part of the brain – that fear, that fight, flight, freeze, instinctive reactive part – and it activates the thinking part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex; and so, naming our emotions, breathing into the emotions, finding where they’re sitting in your body, and literally saying, “I’m feeling anxious right now” and find where’s it sitting. Is it in your stomach? Is it on your chest? And just even taking 90 seconds to just do some deep mindful breathing, can help to loosen the grip of that emotion over you, but more so than that, the grounding ourselves in the values that we care about the most.
Margie Warrell: Right now, in the midst of this pandemic, there is so much that’s outside of our control, there’s so much that we don’t know about, there’s so many unknowns, there’s so much uncertainty, and that can cause a lot of anxiety for people. There’s a lot of people right now that are losing jobs, financially we’re not in the place we were, the future, what’s happening? And so, an incredibly helpful strategy is to just stop and just connect in, “Well, who is it that I want to be in the midst of this moment? And what are the values I want to align myself around?” – whether that is optimism or courage, or friendship or community or compassion – and decide how you will show up in the midst of that. But also, then, to really prioritize those rituals, those practices that help us feel stronger.
Margie Warrell: I think right now when we’ve been bombarded with reasons to feel afraid, we have to really double-down on what makes us feel braver and allows us to bring out best and braver selves to the challenges in hand, rather than getting caught up, stressing about, and getting caught into lots of fearcasting – anxiety drives us to turn our forecasts into fearcasts – and we get caught up in, “What if this happens? And what if that happens?” And it’s like, “You know what? We don’t know what’s going to happen. All we know is right now, today, where we are and what is it that we can do with what’s in our control today.” I think that’s a really important part of this book and my work – and that is, it allows us to walk the path of faith versus the path of fear.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, wow! That was a great answer! A lot of good stuff there! So it’s okay to feel vulnerable, to pause and say, “Hold it! I’m human”?
Margie Warrell: Yeah! And in fact, it’s not just okay to feel vulnerable. I think it’s more than just okay. It’s not just a nice-to-do. I think it’s actually imperative for us because, obviously, in the world, we’re often kind of trained and conditioned not to show vulnerability – show you’re strong and you’ve got it all together and “Hey, yeah, I’m fine, I’m fine.” But actually, when we reveal – not to everybody, but when we really sit with our vulnerability, and we’re willing to share with people that we know we can trust – the real truth of our lives, it actually gives us access to a whole new realm of strength, and courage, and resilience, that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise.
Margie Warrell: I know the day after my husband, Andrew, was hospitalized with Coronavirus – the night before he messaged me saying “I’ve tested positive” and he’d been hospitalized and they’ve X-rayed him and found a spot on his lung – I was absolutely anxious. And the next morning I got up and I wrote in my journal – it’s one of my practices, and I’ve written about that in my book, too – but I then just decided, “I need to just share this with people in my world and I need to just ask for support and ask for prayers, but also just let people know this is what I’m dealing with right now.” And, of course, so many people right now are feeling anxious about this virus and what my opening up to people in a very real and authentic way – and I did it on my public Facebook page; anyone can go and see that video – it really allowed people to support me and I was just overwhelmed with wonderful support from people both in Singapore where I’ve lived just for a couple of years, but also from friends across the United States and friends in Australia and actually friends across the world.
Margie Warrell: And so, I think it’s really important, when we’re in the midst of a difficult time, don’t be too proud to reach out and let people know what you’re dealing with, and don’t be shy or afraid to accept help when it’s being offered as well. I think right now, we’re so much stronger when we are plugged into the people around us; while we need to be physically distancing, I think we need to be so socially connected to people because we are more resilient, and we are braver, and we rise stronger, and we go further in our lives when we are connected to other people, and when we’re real with people, and we’re authentic with people. I just encourage anyone listening right now, just to really prioritize conversations with the people that you care about, and that you can trust, because that is going to help you ride through this storm that much better and emerge from it that much stronger.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you for sharing that. And what’s your experience, Margie? Are people hesitant to be vulnerable? Are they afraid? How do you see that?
Margie Warrell: We are hesitant to be vulnerable, and that’s because we are all wired for belonging. We all want to look good in the eyes of others. No one likes to be rejected, no one likes to be criticized or ostracized. And so, it often drives us to have a social veneer, like this is the face we put on for the world, and we can have these beautifully curated lives, and beautiful homes, and everything looks beautiful. But often, underneath, when you scratch beneath the surface – and as a coach, I’ve had the privilege of doing that thousands of times – the truth of people’s lives is often not quite so beautiful and there’s a lot more rawness and a lot less polish and often a lot more suffering going on. And so, we’re wired not to show vulnerability, we’re wired to have people think that we’ve got it all together, and it’s why it’s such a profound act of courage to say, “Hey, right now, you know, I don’t have it all together.” I mean, that doesn’t mean I don’t have it together in some parts of my life or that I don’t have it together sometimes. I like to think for myself personally, “You know what, I’ve often got it fairly together, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have moments where I feel really uncertain or insecure, or my doubts don’t rise up. I am human too.”
Margie Warrell: And so, we can connect with people far more deeply and we can forge far more meaningful relationships when we do lower our masks and lower the armory we often use to protect ourselves and say, “Hey, I’m struggling!” or “Hey, this is what happened!” And you know what I found? And I’ve had this so many times – I had a series of miscarriages before I had my first child, and then I had some more in between my second and third child. But just numerous family struggles amongst my brothers and sisters. And when I’ve shared with people what’s really going on, often people go, “Ah”, and then they’ll share with me mental illness struggles in their family or issues they’re struggling with, and that allows us to forge so much more meaningful connections with other people. And so, it’s why, actually, the chapter 10 of my book is really around finding people that lift you up and that help you rise and that you can be real with because I think the quality of our lives is so often so directly measured by the quality of the relationships that we have with people as well.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, indeed! I’m so glad that you brought this up and that we’re able to talk about it because when people are genuine, when they’re real, when they share even their worries, they find that their relationships are taken to another level, and the trust goes up and you feel connected to that person. So, it’s powerful! I’m glad we’re able to discuss it today. One of my close friends used to say all the time, “That which is most personal – in other words, we worry about it privately – actually is most general.” And when we talk about those things that require the vulnerability, what seems to be really personal to us, all of a sudden allows us the chance to talk openly and connect with others and we find that others share it and understand it. So, great job on that! Nice going! A couple of other really key areas I think are important for us to discuss: what can people do to build confidence in their ability to cope with the challenges that they’re facing?
Margie Warrell: Okay, the very first chapter of “You’ve Got This” is titled, “Don’t wait for confidence. Begin before you feel ready.” And it’s been my personal experience again, and again, and again, and it’s been my experience meeting and working, running weekend retreats, and speaking and doing all sorts of work with people – that the way we build confidence is not waiting until we have confidence. It’s by taking action and acting as though we have the confidence even though we don’t. And when we take action and act as though we have confidence is like that old idea of fake it till you make it – and this isn’t about being inauthentic; it’s about deciding what really matters more and daring to do the thing even though you’re not 100% confident that you’re going to succeed at it. And right now, yes, we’re in the midst of a really big global storm with this pandemic, but just in our everyday lives, often we set the bar so high for ourselves, we think that we have to know exactly what we’re doing before we start, we think that we have to be really good at something before we put ourselves out there, or that we have to have all of the answers or that we have to be the ultimate expert in something before we’ll make a suggestion. And so, whether it’s people working in big companies, sitting around a meeting table, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m sure other people know more than I do here. I don’t want to suggest something in case I make a fool of myself.” I would just say, just offer that up or put your hand up for the role or start your business.
Margie Warrell: I remember back when I was starting being a coach, I had gone back to college in my late 20s and was doing psychology and then I moved to the United States and my Australian qualifications weren’t going to carry me in the US and I didn’t want to have to start over. I trained as a coach, and while I had, I think, a natural ability to establish rapport with people, I wasn’t the world’s most masterful coach. I remember thinking to myself, “Oh, I should do some more qualifications, and I need to get more training.” A friend of mine said, “Margie, right now, you have everything it takes to start out being a coach. So how about you just coach me?” She’s obviously a great friend! And so, she was my first client and what I learned then, by going out and starting to coach other people, sometimes in the beginning for free, was that actually, I had value to add right at the get-go. Did that mean I was the world’s most brilliant coach? No, but I had value to add. And so often I see people holding back from doing what it is they feel called to do because they think they have to be just the world’s most brilliant version of whatever it is they want to be doing. And that’s not true. We get better by giving ourselves permission to learn as we go. And so, I often tell people, “Yes, do your preparation, but give yourself permission not to be brilliant starting out.” And I think when we lower that perfectionist bar we sometimes set for ourselves – particularly women – I think it liberates us to do more of the very things that will allow us to become even better and to add even more value.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, thank you for your refreshing insight on that, of just going forth in faith and taking action and have faith that things will turn out in a positive way, that the pathways will open. Great going!
Margie Warrell: Yeah. As you know, one of the chapters in the book is called, “Choosing the path of faith over fear” – and I thought it was really important to really encourage people to show up in the world as though everything is going to work out for you, and that there’s a greater force that’s got their back. You don’t need to know exactly how all the dots will connect, all that really matters is that you are being intentional and purposeful with your life. And that fear – fear of not having what it takes, fear of failing, fear of everything turning pear-shaped – fear doesn’t sit in the driver’s seat and dictate the direction you go. And too often we do give too much power away to our fear. And so, having faith – faith in ourselves, faith that it will ultimately work out if we’re really living from a place of high intention and the vision we have for our lives is really aligned with the truth of who we are, that actually things do work out. We have to be patient sometimes in the middle of a mess, like right now, where you can go “How is this working out?” but actually, we have to just zoom up and trust that in the longer scheme of things, in the long arc of our lives, that actually it will work out, as long as we’re really being true to ourselves.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, great. Well, I’m always amazed Margie, how fast things go. We’re already at the end of the show. So, before we end up today – it’s been a delight, by the way – thanks for your refreshing attitude and focus on life and the great tips that you’ve talked about today. Any final tips that you’d like to leave with our listeners?
Margie Warrell: Look to anybody who is right now feeling a little bit overwhelmed or anxious with all the change and all the uncertainty of this Coronavirus pandemic. Firstly, just be kind to yourself, be really compassionate with yourself, get off your own back, but show up in the world as someone who has faith that you will get through this and on the other side of this, life will be good again. And really just show up from a place of being purposeful and having confidence that good things can come from this. And look for good things in this. Look to find good amidst the bad – it’s not to deny the bad, but just double-down on finding the best that you can in this moment and bringing your best self to this worst of times.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, inspirational advice! So, Margie, how can people find out about what you’re doing?
Margie Warrell: Oh, I would obviously love anybody to pop over to my website, margiewarrell.com. I also have the “Live Brave” podcast that I record – you’re welcome to listen to my Live Brave podcast, which is wherever you listen to podcasts. And of course, anybody who would like to really be inspired to trust themselves more during this period of time and frankly, in all times of life, to pick up a copy of my book, “You’ve Got This” which is on Amazon and wherever good books are sold.
Steve Shallenberger: Great! Well, thank you, Margie, for being part of this show today. We wish you and your family, all the best, that your husband will have a full and complete recovery, and that you’ll be safe. It’s been a fun visit today! Wonderful ideas! Thank you so much for being with us!
Margie Warrell: Thank you, Steve! I’m really grateful to be able to share my thoughts with you.
Steve Shallenberger: You bet! We wish every single one of you that are listening, the BEST in all that you’re doing. You’re making a difference, you’re going forward and you’re being a light to other people as you work on these things that are so important and so positive. We hope that you’ll be safe. And so, to all of our listeners, we wish you all the best! This is Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, signing off.
Talk with a Becoming Your Best representative.
Call us now at (888) 690-8764
Or fill out the form and we'll get in touch